Sunday, November 18, 2007


I think I have been blessed with a small vocabulary. Why blessed? Because I have a driving need to be understood. It frustrates me when I am misinterpreted. Because my vocabulary limits me to simple words, I must keep my language plain and simple. Sometimes it is frustrating not to have the exact word I need immediately available, but I make do. If I had a vocabulary like William F. Buckley I would be tempted to show it off, just as he does, and leave many readers baffled, just as he does.

I mention this because a few weeks ago Scott Adams did a couple of essays on cognitive dissonance. Now I know he needed to have a name for the ailment he was writing about and perhaps that is a label others had put on the ailment before, but it left me, and I would guess 90% of his readers, scratching their heads. The few who were in the loop were delighted to write in and dispute the label. Tweedledee and Tweedledum.

But the two essays were an excellent job of reporting and observing. Note that Adams does nothing more than report and observe:

Recently I saw the best case of cognitive dissonance I have ever seen. It was on Bill Maher's show, Real Time, which I love. Bill was interviewing Danish economist Bjorn Lomborg, who has a book about global warming, called "Cool It." The economist made the following points clearly and succinctly:

1. Global warming is real, and people are a major cause.

2. When considering the problems that global warming will cause, we shouldn't ignore the benefits of global warming, such as fewer deaths from cold.

3. The oceans rose a foot in the last hundred years, and the world adapted, so the additional rise from global warming might not be as big a problem as people assume.

4. Developing economical fossil fuel alternatives is the only rational solution to global warming because countries such as China and India will use the cheapest fuel, period. If only the developed countries who can afford alternatives change their ways, it’s not enough to make a dent in the problem.

The Danish economist’s argument doesn't fall into the established views about global warming. He wasn't denying it is happening, or denying humans are a major cause. But he also wasn’t saying we should drive hybrid cars, since he thinks it won’t be enough to help. He thinks we need to make solar (or other alternatives) more economical. That’s the magic bullet. His views don’t map to either popular camp on this issue, and it created a fascinating cognitive dissonance in Bill Maher (a fan of hybrid cars) and his panelists. Here are their reactions after the interview:

Rob Thomas said the interview "...confused the shit out of me." (Yet the economist was completely clear and communicated well.)

Salman Rushdie said, jokingly, that what he heard was "There's no connection between smoking and lung cancer." By that he meant the author was denying that fossil fuels contribute to global warming. (The economist said exactly the opposite, and clearly.)

Bill Maher said, "...20 years later, this guy is going to say, 'You know what? Yeah, there is global warming." (The economist already said exactly that during the interview. In fact, his entire book is based on global warming being true and hastened by fossil fuels.)

You can see the full transcript for yourself here. The interview is about 60% into the show.

Bill Maher is a brilliant guy, whether you agree with his views or not. Salman Rushdie is brilliant too. I don’t know about Rob Thomas, but he looks bright enough. Why couldn’t these three people hear anything the economist was saying? It looks to me like a classic case of cognitive dissonance . They literally couldn’t recognize that the economist was on their side because he suggested considering both the positive and negative effects of global warming.

And then here is an excerpt from his second essay a couple of days later:

But here’s the most interesting part. My blog on how Bill Maher and his panelists misunderstood Lomborg has caused a new round of cognitive dissonance. I have now been labeled a supporter of Lomborg’s arguments simply because I said I understood what he said on a TV show. Check this out. It’s somewhat jaw-dropping:

Now let me opinionate. Global warming has become the new religion. Like all religions, if you don’t accept all the dogma, you are labeled a heretic. Not to pick on any one religion because they all have these faults, in the Catholic religion you can accept the father, the son and the holy ghost, but if you doubt Mary was virgin you are ladled a heretic and excommunicated.

Lomborg was labeled a heretic by the panel and excommunicated because he did not buy into all the dogma. It is a fascinating story for many reasons one of which would seem to be the need for humans to latch onto unthinking dogma and treat it with reverence. And, as Adams says, these are brilliant guys. There must something in the human makeup that makes religion, any religion, a necessity.

In the highlands of Vietnam they believe in wood spirits and build their houses in a manner to thwart their entry. But that is another story.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


If I were ever to get into a fantasy baseball league I would go for all middle range players. I’d never go for a super high priced super star. If you avoid the high prices you can fill your bench with competent, productive players. Some would be busts, but odds are some would have breakout years. In the end, you should have a competitive team.

I think the same thing works in the real world of baseball. Fill every position and the bench with competent players and hope for a breakout year from some. If you give one player a third of the team budget you must get deadwood fill-ins (replacement level) players for some positions.

Player agent Scott Boras is asking 35 mil a year for the services of Alex Rodriquez according to reports.

NEW YORK -- The Yankees were told by agent Scott Boras that they could not meet with Alex Rodriguez unless they presented an extension offer that guaranteed the star $350 million "as a floor."

That seems like a lot of money taken by itself but let’s see what that much money could have bought in the past season.

Miguel Tejeda SS with 18 homers and 81 RBIs made 14 mil.

Jose Guillen RF with 23 homers and 101 RBIs made 9 mil

Mike Lowell 3B with 21 homers and 120 RBIs made 9 mil

One had an off year, one had a good year and one had an excellent year based on their career statistics. Combined, filling three positions, they hit 62 homers and knocked in 302 runs. Combined, filling three positions, they made 32 mil. Two will be free agents and Tejeda is reportedly available for trade. All three shouldn’t cost much more than 35 mil for next season.

That’s what money will buy and that would be my druthers

Wednesday, October 03, 2007


I’ve written about the Bier Garten in downtown Bangkok before without identifying it by name. That is the big, barnlike joint that is my favorite hangout/office where most of this stuff is written. It’s my kind of place, lots of hookers, no pimps, and a bunch of old farangs hanging around. It’s one of the few places in town in which I can be inconspicuous. It’s also one of the noisiest joints in town.

One time, on the way back from the can, I passed behind this cute chick trying to enchant an older guy (what else?) at one of the many bars. As I passed behind them, I let out a huge fart, drowned out by the noise, and kept on quickly. My only reward? She skewed up her noise and gave the old guy a disgusted look.

That was enough reward for me in my little life. At the time, with more than a couple of beers in me, I thought it might have been the funniest thing I’d ever done.

On reflection, I still think so. Am I pathetic or not?

But think about it, if we can’t do jokes involving farts, the terrorists have won. I am just doing my share to win the war.

On that subject, Thai women wrap the clothing around their butts as tightly as any I have ever seen. They almost wear armor around their breasts but they make sure every curve of their asses is on display. That’s the way I would have it if I had to choose.

The other day I was on an up escalator in the subway when I noticed some Muslim women just above me. They were wearing the Muslim headscarves but their asses were wrapped very tightly in silk, showing off every curve. That was a first. I had never seen a Muslim lady dressed like that before.

Maybe we’re winning.

Friday, September 28, 2007


(PICTURE:There are some pretty ladies here but that has nothing to do with my decision to live here. No, really.)
(You can read the article referred to *HERE*.)

Okay, on that last piece I was mostly funnin’. But think about it. If the sun comes up at 3AM on June 30 in Copenhagen, what time does it come up on Dec. 30? I’m not going to research this. Why research when guessing is so easy? So I would guess the sun comes up about 9AM and goes down around 6PM. Just the thought of that depresses me. And Copenhagen is the southernmost of the Scandinavian major cities. Why the hell would anyone want to live in places like those?

But The Reader’s Digest has decreed, based on U. N. statistics and the Environmental Sustainability Index drawn up by Yale and Columbia universities and the World Economic Forum, that these are the best places in the world to live. They must be right because they have the statistics. How dumb can research get? They never cease to amaze me.
Also in this “valuable” study they rate the major cities of the world. Here’s some of that:

European countries -- again, led by Scandinavia -- also top the Reader's Digest assessment of 72 cities for their quality of life. The criteria for this include public transport, parks, air quality, rubbish recycling and the price of electricity.

The winner is Stockholm, followed by Oslo, Munich and Paris.

Asia's mega-cities fare the worst. At the bottom is Beijing, preceded by Shanghai, Mumbai, Guangzhou and Bangkok.

Again this is based on statistics. Why go look around when statistics are so available and you don’t have to get out of your comfortable chair? (Hmmm, sounds like me.)

Here’s one point, when I traveled my work usually required me to live far from population centers. That taught me that major population centers are the worst places by which to judge the people of the country. Would you want The United States to be judged by the inhabitants of NYC? Well, I found the same to be true of almost every place I’ve been. If you want to find friendly people, get away from the population centers.

Another thing, when my company sent me to a large city they always booked me into a nearly first class hotel. I got pissed off in Tokyo because, except for the size of the room, there was no way to tell what town I was in. I got out of there and into a hotel with all those sliding panels and the rest of that Japanese stuff.

In Hong Kong I didn’t change hotels because there were a few great restaurants very near. But I did go to the docks and eat with the workers just to get a feel of the place. Can you imagine a U. N. researcher doing something like that? The food down there was pretty good by the way.

So when the realization that I was finally retired sank in, I began exploring for the best place to live. I did not look into statistics. I knew how to truly find out about a place. Bangkok was far from the first place I visited, but after only two days I knew this was the place for me.

Isn’t it odd that number one on my list would be near the bottom of The Reader’s Digest’s list?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


The Reader’s Digest has done a valuable (valuable meant to be sarcastic) study to rank the best places to live on earth. For this exhaustive study they used most of the politically correct (that means dumb) statistics they could find.

The ranking combines environmental factors, such as air and water quality, respect for biodiversity and greenhouse-gas emissions, as well as social factors, such as gross domestic product, access to education, unemployment rate and life expectancy.
They probably weighted all these dumb statistics and gave them point scores and added everything up and there you go.

I have traveled a lot and came up with my own criteria for finding the best place to live which I will write about later. In the meantime here is their partial result:

Nordic countries take the greatest care of their environment and their people, according to a ranking published on Thursday by the publication Reader's Digest.
Finland comes top of the 141-nation list, followed by Iceland, Norway and Sweden, and then Austria, Switzerland, Ireland and Australia.

Well sir, let me say something about that. The Scandinavian airline, SAS, put me up in a Copenhagen hotel when I was enroute to an even worse place. The date happened to be June 30. What does that have to do with it? Well I didn’t bother to close the window curtains and the goddamned sun came blasting into my room at three o’clock in the morning, local time.

I called downstairs to find out what was going on. “The sun is shining in my room,” I told them, “and it’s three o’clock in the morning.”

The guy on the phone spoke pretty good English as everyone should. “Did you try closing the curtains, sir?”

“What the hell does that have to do with the sun shining at 3 in the morning?”


“Can you do something about it? I mean, is the world coming to an end or something?”

“The sun always comes up at 3 this time of the year, sir. Would you like someone to come up and close your curtains?”

Well there you have it. How can you deal with people like that? The sun comes up at 3 and they treat it like an everyday thing.

Who would want to live in a place like that?

Monday, September 24, 2007


(PICTURE: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and friend.)

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made this statement at Columbia:

'In Iran we don't have homosexuals like in your country. We don't have that in our country. In Iran we do not have this phenomenon. I don't know who has told you that we have it.'

I think this may be a problem of defining our terms. He may mean “flaming” homosexual. I spent eighteen continuous months in Iran and never saw a “flaming” homosexual. On the other hand I would estimate that over 90 per cent of the adult male population has had homosexual relations, many, if not most, on a regular basis. When contact with unmarried women is banned, what would you expect?

It’s funny when a man is brought before a judge for having sex with another man. The verdict is easy. “Of course he is guilty. We all do that.”

Tuesday, September 04, 2007


This is from the Boston Globe:

Weight-loss surgery extends life spans by years

New research could spawn major shift in who is eligible for surgery

By Stephen Smith, Globe Staff August 22, 2007

For the first time, researchers have convincingly shown that losing weight through stomach surgery can extend the lives of severely obese patients, dramatically reducing deaths from heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

Physicians said the findings are so persuasive that they could spawn a major shift in who is eligible for weight-loss surgery, a procedure once relegated to the most dangerously obese because of fears about complications. Now, patients typically have to be at least 100 pounds overweight before doctors will consider the operation and before health plans will pay the bill, which can exceed $30,000 a patient.

So here’s the plan: We eat like m****r-f****rs, get morbidly obese, our health plan will then pay for an operation to staple our stomachs, and then we live longer.

What could be more perfect than that? It’s foolproof.

The full article is *HERE*