Jay P

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  1. What I've wondered though is: how does the intensity of what I'd feel fall off with distance? Second power? Third power? I've felt magnitude 6+ quakes that were fairly close - in both California and Washington - how would that magnitude 9 one that's 200 miles away feel by comparison? I'll see what information I can find. The only info I have on a big quake at a distance is about the one in Chile in 1960, which killed 3,000 people. It was 450 miles from Santiago, a large city, but I don't know where the fatalities were. Now, I wonder what the chances of another big quake based on the New Madrid fault (southern Missouri) are... I think that's still the site of one of the largest quakes in the history of the US.
  2. I'm having a hard time following your argument about a Tsunami. Are you talking about the danger in Seattle and its suburbs, or the Washington coast? You're saying the fault is 50 miles off the coast. (I've heard more like 100+ miles, but OK.) But, Seattle is not on the coast - it's on Puget Sound: it's about 100 miles inland from the coast - and that's the direct distance - a tsunami would have to travel a much longer route to get there. Everyone who doesn't live around here probably thinks of Seattle as being on "the coast", but it isn't. Not really. As for the Tsunami danger, the Washington coast would indeed be in danger, because it would be directly in the path, and fairly close. But for the Tsunami to get to Seattle, it would have to travel down the comparatively narrow Strait of Juan de Fuca (a channel that, on my map, looks like it's about 20 miles wide and maybe 70 miles long) and then down Puget Sound. There isn't any other way for the water to get to Seattle: the Olympic Peninsula is in the way. How destructive would the tsunami be by the time it got to Seattle? I don't know, but I suspect all of the circuitous travel it would have to do to get there would dissipate much of its energy. Now if you're talking about the coast, which it sounds like, you have to remember that it's sparsely populated. There aren't any big cities on the Washington coast: more like small towns here and there. I'm sure the tsunami danger there would be great, and I have heard of the people living there taking precautions - drills etc. As for the earthquake itself, I also don't know how fast the destruction dissipates as you get further from the epicenter. If the quake is centered 50 miles off the coast, that's 150 miles from Seattle. I'm sure a 9+ magnitude one would be dangerous, even at that distance, but I don't know how to quantify how that would compare to being, say, 20 miles from the center of a 6.5 one. (I had also been under the impression that the Richter scale was base-10-logarithmic in energy, not amplitude, so if it's indeed the latter, then the energy difference is much greater than I thought and I've learned something.) I'm not trying to brush aside the earthquake danger in Western WA: it's real, and judging by the increases in earthquake insurance premiums, people are becoming more aware of it, but I wanted to bring some geographic facts into the discussion. Oh yes, we have volcanoes here too! But, the last one to erupt, Mt. St. Helens (1980) is in a very sparsely populated area - there aren't even 10,000 people in the whole county. But what force that was - the mountain is 1300ft shorter than before the eruption. Mt. Rainier is another story - it's a much bigger mountain, and much nearer population. Whenever it erupts, there will be some big mudflows. But of course there will be plenty of warning to get away before it blows up - months, at least. So there would be much property destruction, but little loss of life, except for those who insisted on staying no matter what.
  3. The US abandoned the gold standard in steps, so there was some connection between the dollar and gold in the 1950's and 1960's. Here are some of the steps that were taken. Before 1933, the dollar was freely convertible into gold at the rate of $20.67 per ounce. An American could go to a bank and exchange his paper dollars for gold if he wanted to. In 1933, owning gold became illegal for Americans and the dollar was sharply devalued by raising the price of gold to $35. There were plenty of other laws passed that increased government interference in the economy. Of course, the US government can't make it illegal for foreign citizens to own gold, and so for many years, a non-US citizen could exchange his paper dollars for gold. Foreign central banks could do this too. And I believe there was a loophole for American citizens, in that they may have been able to own gold overseas. (I think Kennedy closed that loophole in his presidency.) (As to foreigners being able to get gold for their dollars, they sometimes took advantage of this. I remember hearing about a British citizen who won a large prize - in the Indianapolis 500, perhaps?? - who got gold for his dollars.) There was also a restriction still in place that tied the number of dollars the Federal Reserve could issue, to the amount of gold they had. This I think was repealed in the late 1960's. So in a sense, Federal Reserve notes had been partly backed by gold, but they no longer were. Finally, in 1971, Nixon "closed the gold window". In other words, he made it so that nobody, not even foreign citizens or central banks, could get gold from the US government in exchange for dollars. That had been the last connection of the dollar to gold. So there were some ties between gold and the dollar up to 1971, but each tie was severed by the government at its convenience, to allow for more inflation. There was also a time in our recent history in which our fractional coinage contained silver - in 1964 and before, dimes, quarters and half-dollars were made of 90% silver; for several years after that, half-dollars only contained a lesser amount. (These silver coins used to show up frequently in change; they have a nice ring to them .) This isn't directly relevant to the gold standard, but is similar in that the requirement that these coins contain precious metal would have made it harder to inflate the money supply. In 1975, ownership of gold was once again made legal for Americans, though of course no link between the dollar and gold was re-established.
  4. You say you've already read Rand's Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, but that would be worth slowly re-reading (for a good understanding) if you are looking for something more challenging. Also, have you read the expanded second edition, with its appendix in which Ayn Rand discusses her philosophy with some professors? That's worth reading. (And you can check your understanding of the material by trying to answer the professors' questions before you read Ayn Rand's answer.) That book also contains Peikoff's essay on the analytic-synthetic dichotomy, which is very much worth reading and studying, since the issue comes up so often today. All of the material in this book is difficult to understand. I haven't met anybody yet who understood it all the first time he read it.
  5. Uniform taxes in the Constitution

    I think you're right, and in fact this might be the reason that, before the ratification of the 16th amendment, income taxes were ruled unconstitutional - because of being non-uniform. But then that amendment specifically added the provision to the Constitution that an income tax was now permissible. Presumably that means the tax is allowed in spite of being non-uniform.
  6. Science Brain Bogglers (Round 1?)

    OK, I think I've got it figured out. Without looking at the internet or consulting notes and books about electricity and magnetism, here's what I remember: If a conductor is moved through a magnetic field, there will be a voltage induced in the conductor. That's what we have here. The voltage in the conductor (coin) will cause a current to flow inside the coin. The direction of the induced current will be such that it causes a force that opposes the motion. (I think this is called Lenz's law, but I'm not allowed to look .) Here, the "motion" is the relative motion of the magnet and the coin, so the induced current will oppose this relative motion - that is, it will try to prevent the magnet and the coin from moving relative to each other. That means it will try to keep the coin moving along with the magnet - in other words, oppose the relative motion. I'm thinking that the induced current in the coin is just circling around. And this is the same phenomenon that, in a generator, gives rise to the force that opposes the turning of the generator - the current flows in the wires in a direction that causes a force that tries to stop the generator from turning, hence the need to supply energy to keep it going. The whole thing depends on the motion. Just holding the magnet there wouldn't do anything. Paramagnetism would not explain it: the force would be way too small, and it wouldn't depend on the motion.
  7. Bush's statement about atheists is more than merely alleged; I remember reading and hearing about him making it. The question he was asked was whether atheists had full rights as Americans, and he replied something to the effect of "Not really; this is after all one nation under God." I remember quite a few Objectivists being aware of this and discussing it during the 1989 TJS conference, so I definitely wasn't the only one who knew about it.
  8. You used what??

    Actually, it wasn't so bad. In fact, when first learning to use a computer, the cards sort of facilitated the process. No text editor or interactive commands to learn. Just punch your program on cards and hand them to the operator. Primitive, but easy for a beginner. My school had a DEC PDP-10 with 192K of 36-bit words. (And this was the old KA-10 processor, which means it used discrete transistors. A book that I now have gives its instruction speed as about 0.38 MIPS.) Primitive by today's standards, but it sure seemed fast to me at the time. Access was via punched card decks or else the old ASR-33 electro-mechanical 110-baud teletype machines. Usually we got pretty good turnaround for short programs on cards - typically less than 1/2 hour. We had to buy our own cards, so changing a line of code cost money. (So did putting in comment cards; which on my freshman budget I decided were a waste of money. ) At my next school, they had a CDC-Cyber-something-or-other - also with a card reader. My first quarter, I was so busy that I didn't have time to learn the much-nicer interactive system. But I got to be pretty good at maximizing my throughput using cards - my methodology being to go into the computing center with two or three programs to work on. Punch one up, submit it to the operator, and then go work on punching another program. By the time you're ready with a new card deck for prorgam B, the printout for program A should be ready. Those old IBM 029 cardpunches were fun to use too. You could use their "duplicate" function to "edit" a card, by using your thumb to stop the progress of one card while you advance the other card, maybe typing one or more characters. And then there were characters that were too weird for the cardpunch to know about (such as a square bracket), so you had to manually "multipunch" the character code in - which showed as a blob of ink on the card, but if you got it right, the correct character would print when you got your listing. Never dropped a deck. Really. A few years later at work, we were still using punch cards - partly because the computer operating system we used was so primitive that it would have been very easy to accidentally delete a source file stored on disk. Easier to be careful and just not drop the cards. Never used paper tape, but heard stories about it. Like when you'd be almost finished reading in a big well-used roll of tape, and it would rip. One thing about those old systems: there were no viruses to worry about!
  9. Problem-solving in films

    The first one I thought of was Apollo 13, already recommended. October Sky might also be what you're looking for, in that it depicts a group of boys in high school who decide to build small rockets, and thus have to figure out how to solve many problems. There's more to the movie than that, but speaking of using science and math to solve problems, one of the boys illustrates this particularly well.
  10. The Peikoff Endorsement

    I'm sorry to hear Ford was against abortion, and I stand corrected on that. But, that just reinforces my point about the anti-abortion stance being so prevalent among Republicans, because that means we'd have to go back to Nixon (whose abortion stance I know nothing about) or even Goldwater to find a pro-choice Republican. ... In summary, I'm not arguing about the relative threats of left versus right; I am just disputing your claim that there are only a few Christian Republicans who want to ban abortion. Based on the evidence I've already given, I still do not see how you can reasonably make this claim. There are just too many prominent Republicans who want to ban abortion. (People like candidates, talk-show hosts and politicians who have actually been elected.) This would not be the case if only a few Republicans wanted to ban abortion, for that would mean that the vast majority wanted to keep abortion legal, and anti abortionists would not get very far in the party. How could it be that a party in which there were only "a few" who wanted to ban abortion, that we'd have to go back 40 years to find a pro-choice presidential candidate?
  11. The Peikoff Endorsement

    When it comes to Christian Republicans and abortion, how in the world can you make the claim that only a "few" of them want to ban it? Heck, the banning of abortion is one of their big issues. I don't think I've ever encountered a Christian Republican who doesn't want to ban at least some cases of abortion, and I've encountered all too many who want to ban abortion in virtually all circumstances. If only "a few" want to ban it, how come Mike Huckabee was so popular and did so well in the primaries? If only a few want to ban abortion, why can people like Rush Limbaugh get away with disparaging pro-choice Republicans, as he did the other day on his show? (He is by far the most popular of the conservative talk-show hosts; given his anti-abortion stance, he would not have this popularity if only "a few" of the Christian Republicans also wanted to ban abortion.) If only a few want to ban it, where were all of these pro-choice Republican candidates for the presidential nomination? As far as I know, Giuliani was the only even partially pro-choice one among them, and of course his candidacy failed miserably. And look at all of McCain's earlier pandering to the Religious Right - before he got the nomination, he went out of his way to make sure they all knew he was anti-abortion. Somebody can correct me if I'm wrong, but the last pro-choice Republican who got his party's nomination for president was Gerald Ford, way back in 1976. One can argue about whether the greatest threat to our liberties today comes from the left or right, but among the religious people on the right (and many non-religious conservatives too) the desire to ban abortion is very strong. I also reject the claim that these people don't want to meddle in the lives of others. If all they wanted was to be left alone and they're against abortion, the solution for them would simple - just don't have one! But instead, they want to forcefully take away this choice from women they've never met.
  12. How to invest money in today's economy

    This is a recycled joke. I first heard it back in 2002 (or before) during the bear market that followed the collapse of the dot-com bubble. The names of the companies were different - one could have filled in the blanks then with plenty of companies that never amounted to anything, even though many people thought that buying these stocks was a sure ticket to riches.
  13. Capitalism, R.I.P.

    OK - I think I understand - so is the problem then that the holders of the Z tranche are really responsible to the holders of the more senior A, B and C tranches in case the borrowers don't make their payments? In other words: the Z tranche holders still have a potential liability for $1.2 billion, even though they just have a $200 million asset on their books? ... The word that comes to my mind when I hear about schemes like this is "evasion." It's like a form of conceptual laundering - we have here a risky loan - subprime mortgage - that is being transformed by financial sleight-of-hand into something that people are then putting in a portfolio of investments that's supposed to hold only investment-grade things. I think an honest term for these securities would be "junk mortgages." But as long as we pretend that they're really investment grade securities, everything's supposed to be OK... There seems to be a lot of this going on these days in our culture. People like to pretend that reality is different than it is - pretend that everything's OK when it isn't. Pretend that there's more substance to a company or an investment than there really is. Or pretend that an enemy of the US is a person who can be reasoned with. Or pretend that the dollar is still a strong currency with the kind of value it had 40 years ago. Or pretend that somebody is getting a good education when in reality he's learning next to nothing. In some future history book, perhaps our present era will be called "The Age of Evasion."
  14. Objectivism, Intelligence, and Cultural Change

    I don't think a high level of intelligence is needed for a person to become an Objectivist - if by "Objectivist" one means somebody who knows the philosophy well enough to use as a guide to his life. (As opposed to somebody who knows it well enough to write a book about an aspect of the philosophy.) To become an Objectivist in today's culture requires that a person be interested in ideas. And that he wants to find the truth and is willing to follow it. Any person with normal intelligence can do that, but it also requires that he be willing to hold (and follow) ideas that are contrary to what his friends, family and other associates think. Today, an Objectivist is going to hold ideas that put him in opposition to much of the rest of the culture - because Objectivism is so rare - and most people just aren't willing to be such an intellectual outcast. It isn't a matter of intelligence. In my own experience, I've known some very intelligent Objectivists. I've also known many who I don't judge as being much above average intelligence, but who are willing to persistently work hard to learn what they know. And some are people who just don't seem much above average, but maybe they learned about Objectivism at the right time in their life, such that they didn't have many bad ideas or habits to overcome. Why aren't there more Objectivists today? I can only attempt to answer that question by observing people I know who have been exposed to Ayn Rand's ideas, but who did not become Objectivists. Why didn't they? The people I know of who fall into this category aren't stupid. Some of them are intellectually lazy - they just aren't that interested in ideas. A few of them I think were afraid that if they followed Ayn Rand's ideas, it would turn their comfortable world upside-down, (because it would change or end many of their relationships) so they never allowed themselves to go there. In some cases their thinking was so corrupted by modern bad philosophy that they really didn't see Objectivism as being correct. In some cases, they may have been turned off by an Objectivist they met who had a disagreeable personality, so they never bothered to learn more. So I think Objectivism is understandable (to the extent needed) by a man of average intelligence - or maybe a little above. And furthermore, to have a culture that is dominated by Objectivist ideas will not require that most people be Objectivists. It might be the case that most people still won't have much of an interest in philosophy, but they'll live by the good ideas that are everywhere in the culture that many of them will take for granted. A philosophy is like that - it can radically affect people's lives, even if they have no idea where the ideas came from, or even if they're not fully aware of the ideas they hold. For a negative example - look at the influence of Kant today, yet if you asked 100 average Americans about the ideas of Immanuel Kant, would they have a clue what you're talking about? As an example of the influence of good ideas on a man of ordinary intelligence, consider the character of Mike the electrician in The Fountainhead. (He's one of my favorites among Rand's minor characters!) A man like him won't be an intellectual contributing to the explicit spread of good ideas, but by his example (and by his work of course!) he will contribute to the spread of the good. And... in a better culture, there will be many more men like him. But there only has to be a small minority of high-achieving intellectuals to spread good ideas.
  15. I hate college

    That was at the Colorado School of Mines. You're right: I could have gone to a better place. But I kept hoping it would get better - hoping that the few good courses I had would be a preview of better things to come. (I also ended up being able to graduate early because of extra courses I took, and the advanced-placement credits I had from high school.)
  16. I hate college

    My thought is that much of what you see, you would have seen 30-35 years ago when I was in college. I was quite disappointed with my undergraduate years. The school was far inferior academically to what I thought it was going to be, and far too many of my classmates were not interested in learning anything - except maybe different ways to get drunk, and they just wanted the "credit" in their classes. I went to a technical school, so I mostly did not have to deal with leftist indoctrination, but the school was full of professors that either couldn't teach, or were just too lazy to bother trying. (There were a few good ones though.) Some of the classes - with fancy-sounding technical titles - were a joke, such as the junior-level course in which one of the exam problems was once to calculate the mass of a cube of gold 10cm on a side(!). (And then there was the old crank who didn't believe in relativity and one poor old guy who was literally senile.) Many of the courses amounted to little more than a rehash of what I'd learned in high school, or were just filled with concretes one could easily look up in a book; there was too little teaching of fundamental principles. In my experience, people go to college for three primary reasons: 1) To learn something OR 2) To get a piece of paper that they can use to get a job OR 3) To goof off and go to parties. I don't know what the relative sizes of these groups were when I was an undergrad. Since quite a few of the courses did require some effort, probably most of the students weren't there just to goof off, but I also did not get the impression that most really cared about learning. Anyway, the whole experience was a big letdown to me. I graduated as quickly as I could and at that point had no intention of ever setting foot in a college again. In retrospect, there are things I could have done differently: I could have made an effort to seek out good professors and good courses; I could have dumped the major I was in when it became evident that much of that department was worthless; and I could have pursued more study on my own - especially using our school computer. In other words, I could have salvaged something out of a bad situation and gotten a better education. Lost opportunities. Later though, when I decided to switch careers, I did decide to go to graduate school (at a different school!), my earlier cynicism having worn off. And the experience was much better. In the department I was in (Computer Science) I would say well over half of the graduate students were seriously interested in learning. Some were not - some of them seemed to be just having fun playing the role of "grad student," but that never bothered me because I was too busy learning everything I could about my new field. I also chose to spend time with other students I judged to be the serious ones. (My experience was enriched, and I learned a lot more, by having friends I could go to lunch with and talk to about the classes we were taking. We'd ask each other questions and compare notes about how we were going to tackle challenging assignments.) That year was filled with hard work - one quarter I had absolutely no time for anything outside of my studies - and was one of the most enjoyable years of my life. I don't remember any of the CS grad students being drunks or goof-offs. There undoubtedly were those kinds of people in other places at the school (it was a large university) but I was too busy learning to care about what was going on elsewhere on campus. Obviously I've learned that it makes a big difference where one decides to go. What's important is to gather first-hand knowledge about the different schools; weigh your abilities objectively; and then choose the best school that you can get into at which you'll be able to handle the work. But I do indeed think much of what passes for higher education today must be worthless, especially in many non-technical fields. However, a resourceful and motivated student in science or engineering should be able to get a good education, keeping in mind that much of the learning might have to come from doing work outside that which is assigned in his classes.
  17. Palin Spells Out Iran Nuke Policy

    It's distracting when a prominent person mispronounces the word "nuclear" as "newkular," and doesn't reflect well on the speaker. And it is a mispronunciation. Just look at the word "nuclear" and sound it out, (like they taught us when I was in first grade). The letters don't come in the order that would be needed to get "newkular." Arguing that what we have here is a legitimate alternative pronunciation is similar to arguing that an alternative pronunciation for the word "ask" is "ax". I've heard that, and it's wrong too - also a swapping of the order of two sounds. It's distracting because it's obviously wrong and easily corrected, yet the speaker uses the incorrect version anyway. Why? She has friends and family who could point out the error, I suppose. Why continue to make the mistake? Doesn't care? Doesn't know? Doing it deliberately in order to bait her enemies? (I hope not!) I don't know, but it would be easy to fix if she cared to. .... Using proper grammar, spelling and pronunciation is important in communication. Not doing so suggests to me that the communicator is either ignorant, lazy, lacks respect for his listeners, or is anti-intellectual (doesn't take ideas seriously). So the person's message gets mixed in with the distraction of easily corrected mistakes. "Why is he doing this?", I wonder. I compare the present case with what happens when somebody posts a message on an internet forum that is full of spelling and grammar mistakes. (Maybe he even ignores punctuation and capitalization; I've seen that.) What does it say about the person who wrote it? What it says to me is that he's too lazy to take the trouble to do it right (or mabye it's his perverse way of trying to appear "cool"), and it's distracting if I then try to follow his arguments. In cases like this, my tendency is to ignore further communications from this person until I have evidence he's corrected his ways. Correct pronunciation is something one should take pride in. Pronouncing words incorrectly is something that people will notice, and it will justifiably make a negative impression on quite a few of us. This isn't the most important consideration in deciding how to vote, but there's no excuse for a presidential candidate making such an easily-corrected mistake.
  18. Capitalism, R.I.P.

    Well, both actions (attacking short-sellers and closing banks) were directed against individual liberty - economic freedom and property rights in particular - so one could in that sense say they were similar.
  19. 2008 Presidential Poll for September 2008

    My position is still that both of these men are so evil that I cannot vote for either one. McCain is a living advertisement against himself; he doesn't seem to be able to open his mouth without making an anti-capitalist remark. When I watched the Olympics, there were McCain ads in which he boasted about attacking the oil companies. (And then later on, not to be outdone, his running mate Palin bragged about "taking on" the oil companies in Alaska.) Obama might be a second-handed chameleon like Peter Keating who just wants everybody to like him. Or, given his terrorist friends, he might be a dangerous leftist; I cannot tell which. I do see the danger of fundamentalist Christianity represented by the Republicans (all the more so given the popularity of Huckabee even after his remarks about the need to change the Constitution to make it in accord with Christianity; and given the complete failure of the only strong secular candidate they had, Giuliani), but the New Left has gotten so badly anti-Amreican that I do not see the Democrats as a rational alternative. Both men are environmentalists; both will probably impose energy rationing. Both believe strongly that we should all sacrifice more. McCain (and even more so Palin) would work to put more anti-abortion conservatives on the Supreme Court. Given that the justices most likely to retire next are liberals, a Republican presidency would end up making the Supreme Court majority anti-abortion, as well as favoring the gradual tearing down of church-state separation. (I hope the Democrats in the Senate can do something to prevent the Court from falling under control of religious conservatives.) I can't tell which of these men would take the biggest step along the path to fascism. Obama might want to go further than McCain on some things, but the Republicans in Congress would probably oppose Obama vigorously, whereas I fear they'd give McCain whatever he wanted - I can't see many of the Republicans doing much to effectively stop a President of their own party. There are all sorts of concretes one could focus on to attempt to prove that one of these candidates is worse than the other and so must be opposed; none of what I have read here or on other Objectivist venues has convinced me that either one is worth voting for. There is a limit to what kind of "lesser evil" I will vote for; both of these men crossed that limit long ago. Whichever one wins will be one of the worst presidents in our history.
  20. Capitalism, R.I.P.

    The attacks on short sellers are reminiscent of president Hoover's attacks on them in the bear market leading up to the Great Depression. Short sellers seem always to be a popular target of anti-capitalists.
  21. Sarah Palin selected by McCain for VP slot

    First of all, Objectivism is a lot more than politics - it's a whole philosophy. As for the politics of this election, I myself know quite a few Objectivists who will not vote for McCain. They won't vote for anybody (for president), or will vote for Obama because they judge him to be the lesser threat. (And these are real Objectivists, not libertarians or some kind of pseudo-Objectivists, and certainly not conservatives.) But even if some, or many, Objectivists vote for McCain, that fact by itself is hardly evidence that they're akin to conservatives. This election we are faced with a choice of two bad men; what I hear from other Objectivists is that they're trying to select the lesser of these two evils. Voting for McCain or Obama, in this context, isn't evidence of any affinity for either of these men; it's just people trying to make the best of a bad situation. But all of this should be obvious. .... (Also, internet forums in general don't necessarily reflect what most Objectivists are thinking. And, Objectivist internet forums are also frequented by both liberal and conservative gadflies - people who aren't really Objectivists but who like to give their opinions in Objectvist venues anyway. Once one understands Objectivism, these people are pretty easy to spot so that one doesn't confuse them with Objectivists.)
  22. Organic Foods

    My experiences with "organic" foods indicate to me that they don't taste any better, aren't any healthier, are more likely to spoil and are more expensive. So I generally avoid them. I also don't much care for the packaging of some of these things that is full of ecologist propaganda. Once in a while, some organic produce will be marked down in price, but even then, I'm careful. I recall looking over a batch of organic oranges in which most of the fruit was going bad, with soft, mushy areas, and I have seen this frequently in organic fruit. Somebody mentioned that he thought organic tomatoes were better - not as thick-skinned. The supermarket I buy tomatoes in has several kinds (of non-organice ones). The ones I buy have vines attached and are thinner-skinned and tast better, BUT, they are not marked organic. Some day, people are going to look back with amusement at those people in the early 21st century who were paying a premium for produce fertilized with animal waste. The funniest organic product I ever saw was some salt that was marked organic. Really? Organic salt? Sodium chloride is about as inorganic as you can get! (But maybe these are special sodium atoms that are organic...... )
  23. US Airlines Call for Regulations on Oil Speculation

    These airline CEOs ought to be ashamed of themselves for advocating such nonsense. Particularly ironic, notice that the CEO of Southwest Airlines was one of the signers. Ironic because Southwest was able to lock in a low price of their kerosene by the use of.... commodity futures contracts. In other words, somebody at Southwest decided at some time in the past that fuel prices would likely go up, so they bought contracts for the future delivery of some petroleum product(s). They turned out to be right, and so their futures contracts increased in value, thus offsetting the higher price they have to pay for fuel today. In other words, they made money by speculation - trying to forecast the future, and betting on what they thought would happen. So I wonder how they justify wanting to prohibit other people from doing the sorts of things they do. It's probably just the usual pragmatist hypocrisy that one sees far too often in business today. (The example of some large well known companies in the computer and software business trying to sic the federal government on each other - each accusing the other of "anti-competitive" practices in the same way he himself was accused - comes to mind here.) The other point to keep in mind is that Southwest was only able to buy the contracts for future delivery (i.e., "go long") because some speculator (or maybe an oil producer who was trying to lock in a price for his future production) was at the same time willing to take a position for future sale of oil (i.e., "go short"). In other words, Southwest was able to bet oil to go up only because there was somebody else willing to take the opposite position, and bet it to go down. People use futures contracts for things like this all the time. A farmer wants to ensure that he can receive a good price for his harvest so he buys a contract to lock that price in. Or a mine operator for his metal production. On the other side, a user of a commodity wants to ensure his purchase price, as in the case of Southwest Airlines, or a candy manufacturer trading in the cocoa market. Commodity markets are good. They allow people to control risk, by transferring it to somebody who is willing to assume it. If speculators are banned, then these markets will become illiquid - you won't be able to buy or sell a contract when you'd like to, because nobody is permitted to trade with you, having been branded as evil speculators. .... One thing that would be funny if it weren't so serious is these executives' assertion that every time the oil gets traded, it gets marked up just a little bit. It's as if they're saying that commodity traders are in effect hundreds of "middlemen", who each mark the price of oil up. These CEOs are businessmen??? I had to keep reminding myself that they are indeed leaders of large companies, and not just a pack of whiners who are mad because the price of something they want has gone up. They ought to know that markets don't work that way. Do they know it, but are just angling for legislation they think will benefit them at the expense of chipping away at freedom? Or are they so ignorant of how markets work that they really don't know?
  24. Supreme Court strikes down D.C. handgun ban

    Yes, good news indeed - the Supreme Court finally makes a ruling based on the Second Amendment, to the effect that the amendment really means what it says. This rulling ought to lead to the ending of all sorts of other gun bans in this country. It's about time. I believe the last time the Supreme Court made a ruling that involved the Second Amendment was 1939.
  25. This is a useful book; I've learned quite a few things from it. I also like the author's frequent use of humor in showing examples of confusing writing. I have a well-worn first edition. Copies can be frequently found at library book sales for less than a dollar. This book has also been discussed a little in the "Grammar School" forum: see the "Welcome" topic there. Another book on English usage that I like is A Dictionary of Contemporary American Usage by Evans and Evans, 1957.