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Everything posted by BrianB

  1. Happy Birthday Betsy Speicher

    Happy birthday Betsy. And thank you so much for making this forum available to us all.
  2. Elevated estradiol

    Here are two ideas for you. Based on what you have posted above, you probably are already doing the first one. Most of the medical research in the USA is reported on government websites. To find the latest information about any condition, go to Google Advanced Search, enter your search terms, and restrict the search to the .gov domain. For example, I input "elevated estradiol" as a phrase, entered "men" and "male" in the "any of these words" box, and ".gov" in the "site or domain" box. The English healthcare system is mostly nationalized. However, there is a private segment called BUPA. London is a major destination for medical toruism. Perhaps a doctor there could help you with your situation. I echo Betsy's advice. By all means research and learn about your condition. But, for treatment, put yourself in the hands of a qualified doctor.
  3. You call that a benevolent sense of life?

    I've been discussing the video with others. One person, whose opinion I respect, raised a concern about Jessica's parting comment: "I can do anything good." She hypothesized that Jessica's self-confidence might be based on input from adults who are adherents of the so-called "self esteem movement". E.g., if Johnny says "2 + 2 = 5" the teacher says, "That's right!", for to do otherwise would hurt Johnny's self-esteem. I have little insight into the mental processes of small children so I could not agree with nor refute this hypothesis. I decided to ask an expert. I have a friend who is schooled in child psychology. She has also been a Montessori teach for decades. I asked her to tell me what she thought of the video. This is what she said: "Just based on that video, I would say that is one happy little girl who feels as though she can not only do anything, but do it better than anyone! This feeling can only come about if she has had many opportunities to try and succeed at purposeful tasks that are important to her. I would love a school full of kids like that one!" I would stress that my friend's evaluation was based on an impression from the video, and was not a full appraisal which could only be done in person and over time. Still, it makes me feel good to know that Jessica is most likely the self confident, happy, little girl that she appears to be.
  4. Now this is a benevloent sense of life!
  5. You call that a benevolent sense of life?

    You are fortunate indeed to have such a blithe spirit in your life.
  6. FINAL Presidential Poll for 2012

    Damn right.
  7. Average Medicare cost vs. contribution per recipient?

    Joss, no problem. I'll seize any excuse to program in J.
  8. Average Medicare cost vs. contribution per recipient?

    Joss, I'm an actuary. Computations using discounting are very familiar to me. Which doesn't mean I don't make mistakes. Check my work if you use it. I wrote a quick function to look into your problem. Here are the things I assumed: The couple's 2012 annual income is $50,000. They worked 45 years, from 1967 through 2011. The rise in the CPI during that time was 588%. This averages out at about 4% per year. The Medicare contribution each year was 0.029% of earnings. First I computed the annual salary for each year based on inflation. In 1967 they earned $8,902, in 1968 $9,258 and so on. The Medicare contribution in 1967 was $258.17, in 1968 $268.49 and so on. As a check on my function, I accumulated the contributions at the inflation rate. This should be the same as 45*0.029*50000 = $65,250. My function does indeed yield this result. Next I ran the function assuming a 2% real yield. I.e., the couple get a 6% return on their investments. In this case the accumulated value of the contributions is $102,279. Finally, I used an accumulation rate that is nearer to the average that the stock market yields, 8%. In this case the accumulated value is $168,320. If you would like me to run the function with other inputs let me know. Here is the function: NB. Compute Medicare contributions NB. x is i,a or i,a,n where i is inflation rate, a is accumulation rate, NB. and n is duration (default 45) NB. y is the current income, e.g., $50,000 NB. E.g., 0.04 0.06 45 vM 50000 vM=: 4 : 0 'i a n'=:3{.x,45 NB. sets duration to 45 if elided v=:1,*/\(n-1)#%1+i NB. inflation factors s=:|.y*v NB. income earned. From earliest year to the present c=:0.029*s NB. Medicare contribution in each year af=:|.1,*/\(n-1)#1+a NB. accumulation factors 7":pvc=:+/c*af NB. accumulated value of Medicare contributions ) If you're ambitious, and you would like to run the function yourself, go to and download version 6 of the language. It's free. The language is J, the successor to APL.
  9. The bad guy won. The fight continues.

    L_C and Carlos; The peoples in the two scenarios that you describe share a common trait: they both think that it is in their rational self interest to vote for ever larger government benefits. The solution is quite simple: show them that their lives are poorer and meaner if the government provides for them than if they earn their own values. The solution is simple to state but difficult to implement. For example ... In England people will tell you that the National Health System is the best in the world. If you ask them about their own interactions with their doctors and hospitals, you often hear horror stories of treatment that is inadequate or flat out denied. An English friend of mine told me that: "Over here diabetes is a do-it-yourself disease." Contrast that with the situation in the US. Many Americans will tell you that they are dissatisfied with the health system. They say that there should be a single payer, government run, healthcare system. When you ask them about the treatment they receive from their doctors, they go into rhapsodies of praise. Their doctors are wonderful, they say, and they are full of gratitude. These two examples show the magnitude of the problem. In both cases the populations think that healthcare should be free, provided by the government. Their real world experiences have no power to shake this belief. Only philosophical education can lead them to understand that their self-interest is best served by a capitalist healthcare system. How do we get there from here? The Ayn Rand Institute has described and is executing the necessary steps. It starts by training philosophers, who then teach fundamental principles to intellectuals in other disciplines, who promulgate the ideas to the general population. This is a process that will take generations. It needs to be stressed that there are no shortcuts for this process. Some pin their hopes on making changes through the political process. This is doomed to failure. Unless attitudes change, any political victories will be transient. L_C, in another thread you wrote about the difficulty of acquiring a CPAP machine through the Swedish health system. This is a great example to exemplify the virtues of lower taxes and more choice. Carlos, I don't think that Hispanics are any different to you and me. If they acquire a clear understanding of where their self interest lies, they will act on it. They will vote in droves to eliminate government programs and reduce the tax burden on themselves and the industrialists who create their jobs.
  10. The bad guy won. The fight continues.

    I was born in London in 1938. Two years later the blitz started. The bombing raids were terrifying for a three year old. Our house wasn't hit but others weren't so lucky. I was evacuated to Wales. I always had enough food, but other children didn't. By the end of the war great damage had been done to infrastructure. When I returned to London I was able to play in the ruins of entire city blocks. Winston Churchill was the leader during the war and he was beloved as a war leader. But he was a Tory (conservative). The people blamed the Tories for the great depression. So in the election of 1945 Churchill and the Tories lost in a landslide to Clement Atlee and the Labour Party (socialists). Atlee continued the food rationing that had been imposed in the war. He also nationalized a large part of the economy including the rails, the steel industry, the coal industry, and the healthcare system. The economy stagnated except for a thriving black market. Taxes were draconian (The Beatles later sang, "There's one for you, nineteen for me." which closely reflected the 96% top rate.) Under successive governments, both Labour and Conservative, Britain became known as "the sick man of Europe." Fast forward to the 1980s. Maggie Thatcher dramatically cut income tax rates, denationalized industries, and adopted a host of pro-market reforms. The result was that Britain became an economic powerhouse, the most dynamic economy in Europe. It is useful to view the reelection of Barack Obama in this context. We're in for a tough four years. The economy won't do as well as it should and there is a higher risk of inflation, recession, or even a depression. But if a country like England, whose population is more socialist than America's, can survive World War II and a series of Labour governments, to elect a leader like Thatcher, then surely the USA will survive four more years of Obama. And, from a long term perspective, things are looking up. Obama's first four years caused people to revisit Ayn Rand's work, specifically "Atlas Shrugged". The Ayn Rand Institute and others are injecting an Objectivist viewpoint into the general culture. Quotes from Rand have become part of the national conversation. While there is much work to be done, and much danger to be faced, there is every reason to hope that your children and grandchildren will have a bright future. In my judgment it is not time to "go Galt". Dropping out of the work force means that skills stagnate and wealth is not acquired. Neither is it time to flee the USA. This is the place where the battle must be fought. The only hope for the world is for America to return to the values that made it great. If the battle is lost here, then nowhere will be safe.
  11. Advice requested: melatonin

    I am not a medical person. I am not qualified to offer medical advice. What follows are suggestions that you might want to discuss with your doctor. A common reason for sleep disruption is breathing disorders. The most common of these is sleep apnea. If you have reason to think that this might be your issue, then spending a night in a sleep lab would give you a definitive diagnosis. Sleep apnea is caused by the airways shutting down during sleep. Breathing can stop for minutes at a time. This causes the sufferer to be jerked awake to resume breathing, disrupting REM sleep. Another serious effect of sleep apnea is that the oxygen level in the blood drops and this can have lasting effects on the brain. The treatment for sleep apnea involves wearing a mask hooked up to a continuous or bi-level positive air pressure machine. These are commonly referred to as CPAP or BiPAP machines. The conventional wisdom is that sleep apnea afflicts only overweight and obese people. This is not true. Normal weight people can have sleep apnea. However, it is true that incidence of sleep apnea is strongly correlated with obesity. Another possible reason that you wake up at night is your prostate size. If you are past middle age you almost certainly have an enlarged prostate. This can cause pressure in your bladder that can wake you. There are no satisfactory ways to reduce prostate size. There are some strategies you can adopt to minimize the problem. E.g., don't drink anything within three hours of bedtime. E.g., learn relaxation techniques to help you go back to sleep after you have awakened. Especially, don't think of topics that cause you anxiety. E.g., schedule a time to take a nap in the daytime. As a final suggestion, if you are sedentary you could start doing aerobic exercise (after getting your doctor's opinion that this is safe). Here are two studies on this: http://www.ncbi.nlm....pubmed/22019457 http://www.ncbi.nlm....pubmed/20572421 A lot of research has been done on melatonin. You can access it by going to Google advanced search and inputting the search terms "melatonin" and "insomnia" and restricting the domain to .gov I hope this helps.
  12. Objectivist Dropouts

    Decades ago I heard Dr. Alan Blumenthal expound on a reason why some people drop out of Objectivism. I mention Dr. Blumenthal to give him credit for the idea. However, the presentation of the idea, below, is mine, and the blame for any mistakes, or misinterpretations of what Dr. Blumenthal said, rests with me. Suppose a young man, John, discovers Objectivism. The ideas hit him like a sledgehammer. They open up a whole new universe to him. He doesn't fully understand all the ideas yet and he certainly hasn't integrated them. But he searches out everything that Ayn Rand wrote and reads it. In the course of his studies he finds out Ayn Rand's opinions on art. On music she thinks that Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff are the best. Beethoven is a genius, but has a malevolent sense of life. She, explicitly, is not a fan of Elvis Presley. John extrapolates this last to conclude that she thinks all Rock 'n Roll is worthless. So John gets rid of his music collection and buys music by composers that Ayn Rand favors. He listens to it diligently but apart from one or two snatches of melody that he can grasp, he doesn't like it. John finds the music that Ayn Rand likes to be boring and incomprehensible. The same thing happens with books. When it comes to literature Ayn Rand places Victor Hugo and Fyodor Dostoevsky at the pinnacle. John gives away his comic book collection and buys "Crime and Punishment" and "Les Miserables". His judgment is that the first is evil and the second is depressing. John follows a similar pattern about his career choice, friends, and other issues. The upshot of all this is that John feels that he has to give up his values if he is to be an Objectivist. He has never experienced such unhappiness. He feels that he is losing his sense of self. In the end it becomes so unbearable that he gives up on Objectivism. He decides that trying to live by reason alone is not possible. The only way to be happy is to go with his emotions and restore his values. He becomes an Objectivist dropout. The saddest part of this sequence is that it needn't have happened. If John had an Objectivist mentor, his mistake would have been identified and explained to him. There is no contradiction between being an Objectivist and liking, say, AC/DC. It is my belief that many people give up on Objectivism because they don't understand it or they make a mistake in interpreting it. If there ever comes a day when Objectivism is pervasive in the culture, when people say of Objectivist ideas, "Oh, that's just common sense." then the problem of Objectivist dropouts will be no more.
  13. The concept "humility" has two components. The first is the appraisal that I am worthless. The other is that this is a moral good. If the quote above read: "An appraisal of one's own worthlessness based on a truthful and objective estimation of what we are is certainly no vice or defect. It is truth in action." then I would agree with it. But the corollary is that I would find such a state to be intolerable. The idea that I am worthless would be repugnant to me. I would expend every effort to achieve self worth. There are three entries on humility in "The Ayn Rand Lexicon". Here's a part of one of the entries. It is from Galt's speech. "Discard the protective rags of that vice which you call a virtue: humility - learn to value yourself, which means: to fight for your happiness" - and when you learn that pride is the sum of all virtues, you will learn to live like a man."
  14. Source of passage?

    The short answer is "no". The long answer can be found in "The Virtue of Selfishness", a collection of Ayn Rand's essays on this subject. But it's interesting to look at the consequences if the answer to this question is "yes". Let's do this from the viewpoint of John, a fictional character we'll invent. John is a citizen of an economically developed country. His job provides a good salary. John lives in an apartment, has cable TV, and he owns a car. He occasionally takes his lady out to dinner or a movie. John gives a substantial amount of his income to charities. When John hears the man shouting in the well, he stops to help him. He believes that it would be morally wrong, in fact evil, to do otherwise. John would stop and help, even if it meant great inconvenience. If you ask John why he is helping, he says that the man's need is acute and any cost to himself is insignificant in comparison. The problem for John is that there are people in much worse situations than the man in the well. For example, there are children in Africa who are suffering dreadfully and will die for lack of food or medical care. These children could be helped if there was sufficient money to buy the food and medicines. There are organizations, such as Oxfam, that could scale up their operations if they had extra funds. So if John truly believes that it is evil to pass by people who are in acute need, why is he turning his back on the innocent victims of famine, pestilence and war? If you ask John this question, he might talk about his charitable giving. But you can point out that he is dining out with his lady, enjoying a nice bottle of wine. If the cost of the meal had been donated to Oxfam, it would have fed a child for a month. Similarly with many of his other expenditures. He can survive without cable TV. He could sell his car and live in a rented room near his work. And how about his leisure time in the evenings and on weekends? He could take a second job. Even if he takes all these steps, and donates the money to Oxfam, he will still be vastly better off than Oxfam's clients - and there is room for him to do more. I'm interested in what you think about John's situation. To be moral, must John live at a subsistence level so that he can devote all his income to helping those in need? Or, if he wants to live a pleasant life, must he accept that he is evil, a callous greedhead who looks on with indifference as children suffer and die? Or can you suggest some third alternative?
  15. Happy Birthday to Betsy Speicher

    Happy birthday Betsy. And thank you so much for providing and maintaining this site. I wish I had discovered it years ago.
  16. Recommendations

    What's better than finding a good novel to read? Finding a series of novels all of which you really enjoy. If you have not yet come across Rosemary Kirstein's "Steerswoman" series, you're in for a treat. In 1985 David Pringle's book, "Science Fiction: The 100 Best Novels: 1949-1984" was published. This year saw the publication of Damien Broderick's and Paul Di Filippo's follow-up book, "Science Fiction: The 101 Best Novels 1985 - 2010". "The Steerswoman" was one of the selected books. I could quote the glowing review that Broderick and Di Filippo wrote, but it contains spoilers. However they quote a review by Jo Walton. Walton is a reviewer and science fiction author. Here's a part of Walton's review that doesn't contain spoilers: "If you like science, and you like watching someone work out mysteries, and if you like weird alien worlds and human cultures, if really good prose appeals, and if you can stand reading a series written by someone brilliant who writes excruciatingly slowly but has no inconsistencies whatsoever between volumes written decades apart, then you're in luck." The books are published by Del Rey. Unfortunately, Del Rey doesn't do a good job for its authors. You can go to Amazon and get the first two books in one volume, "The Steerswoman's Road". It's expensive, $23.95, as it's "publish on demand", however there's a link to used copies which are less than half that. The fourth book in the series, "The Language of Power", is available on Kindle. But reading it first would be a massive spoiler for the first three books. None of the other books are available on Kindle. Contrast with Baen Books whose entire backlist is available on Kindle. Any science fiction author would kill to be included in an authoritative "best novels" compendium and Rosy (I can call her that because she's a good friend) is no exception. If you would like to read her reaction to her inclusion check out her blog entry. Be sure to read the comments. They are very nice. Don't click on the link to Jo Walton's full review. It tells too much about things you would rather discover for yourself, as you read the book. By the way, if you ever meet Rosy don't refer to her as "an Objectivist writer". She will gently correct you. "I am not an Objectivist writer. I am a writer who happens to be an Objectivist."