DOMESTIC TRANQUILITY

April 28, 2018


I am gong to deviate from my usual STEM post and do a little politics, the subject being “Domestic Tranquility”.  The need to achieve domestic tranquility goes back a long time.  Remember this?

“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of the Unites States of America.”

These words are the preamble to our Constitution.  Basically, if I read this correctly, a more perfect union just might depend upon justice, insuring domestic tranquility, providing for the common defense and promoting the general welfare.   Most people will agree, we really are not there with no real signs of getting there too quickly relative to tranquility, domestic or otherwise.   Domestic tranquility generally means peace at home. It is meant with reference to family as well as states. Domestic Tranquility with regard to constitution is referred to peace among the states. Constitution gives power to federal government squash rebellion and to smooth tensions between states

Recent polls have confirmed that Americans are feeling bitterly split. A Gallup poll conducted just after the 2016 presidential election found seventy-seven (77) percent of Americans see the country as “greatly divided when it comes to the most important values,” up from sixty-six (66) percent in 2012. A Washington Post-University of Maryland poll, conducted nine months into Trump’s presidency, found that seven in ten (10) Americans think the nation’s political divisions are as bad as during the Vietnam War.  Kwame Anthony Appiah, a professor of philosophy at Princeton University, said this kind of division has been rare in the U.S. While the country has faced many periods of intense disagreement and strife, he said, what’s unusual is the current tendency of some Americans to argue that others don’t belong in the country at all. This approach to politics has appeared only occasionally in U.S. history. For example, in the Jacksonian period, Andrew Jackson’s supporters sharply defined Americans as English-speaking Christians of European origin, while in the McCarthy years, people with particular political views or lifestyles could be declared un-American and denied basic constitutional protections.

One element in today’s world that divides us even more is social media.

SOCIAL MEDIA:

Social media may be society’s gateway to a global connection that we have never seen before, but if we look closely, social media has played a significant role in dividing us more than it connects us.  Take any issue or topic developing domestically or internationally. Whatever this issue is, social media platforms, such as Facebook Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, etc. play a prominent role in adding fuel to the fire. With the ability to express ourselves without face to face interaction, this opens the door for a much different form of debating. We are all a part of the term “keyboard warrior.” At one point, we have all fallen into this category. It feels as if this is the direction our country is moving in. Nothing is being resolved because we don’t look for resolutions anymore. We just look for the next opportunity to slander the opposite belief. I feel as if this won’t change but it will just get more and more relevant as we extend further and further into our newly found self-extension that has become our social media profiles.  This is demonstrated each night with late-night comics working towards greater ratings.  They use as their platform the political issues of the day.

Our social skills are falling while our social media skills are rising. This idea that our Facebook rants will change the world is far from true. The truth is if you want change, get off your high horse and go out and do something about it. Your Facebook essay on why something is wrong isn’t going to do anything but make you look like a fool. Stop sitting around and waiting for the change you seek and go out and become the change you so desperately want to see invoked in our world. We must take a hold of this issue before it consumes our youngest generation. These kids will one day be our executives. If they grow up in a solely social media-dominated world, it will have devastating effects on generations to come.

Let’s take a look at what course of action might help achieve domestic tranquility.

  • ELIMINATE POLITICAL PARTIES: When George Washington became President of the United States in 1789, there were no political parties. Political parties first emerged during Washington’s first term in office with the Alexander Hamilton’s Federalist Party in 1791 and in the following year, the formation of the Anti-Federalist Party or Democratic-Republicans under the leadership of Thomas Jefferson. The two political parties formulated their views of how government ought to operate in the new republic. At the end of Washington’s first term, as he was preparing to retire and go back to Mt. Vernon to just be a farmer again, the leaders of the opposing parties both wanted him to reconsider with Hamilton and Jefferson pleading with Washington to stay on for a second term. Washington was against political parties and felt they would detract from governing.
  • EXTEND THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES TERM TO FOUR (4) YEARS. John Larson (D-Conn.) is pushing to extend the terms of House members to four years to free them from the pressures of constant fundraising. In an interview with The Hill, Larson said extending the terms and staggering them so that half of the House is up for reelection every two years would let members prioritize learning the ropes in Congress over campaign cash. “I think the two-year cycle and all the demands that places on individuals tends to lend itself to one chasing their tail in terms of raising the money required to get reelected,” Larson said. Larson said new members arrive in Washington for freshman orientation only to be told to start dialing for dollars again.
    “The first orders that the Republican Conference and Democratic Caucus give is, ‘Get on the phone and start raising money again. You’ve got an election coming up.’ And I think that we ought to reverse that priority,” Larson said.
  • MAKE THE LEGISLATIVE BRANCH OF OUR GOVERNMENT ABIDE BY THE RULES THEY PASS: Republican Senator from Kentucky, Rand Paul, introduced a Constitutional Amendment in the recent past that would prohibit members of Congress from passing laws “applicable to a citizen of the United States that is not equally applicable to Congress.”

Section 1. Congress shall make no law applicable to a citizen of the United States that is not equally applicable to Congress.

Section 2. Congress shall make no law applicable to a citizen of the United States that is not equally applicable to the executive branch of Government, including the President, Vice President, ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and all other officers of the United States, including those provided for under this Constitution and by law, and inferior officers to the President established by law.

Section 3. Congress shall make no law applicable to a citizen of the United States that is not equally applicable to judges of the Supreme Court of the United States, including the Chief Justice, and judges of such inferior courts as Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.

Section 4. Nothing in this article shall preempt any specific provision of this Constitution.’

I hate to say it, but the law doesn’t have a chance at passing. If it did, Congress would understand the destress many Americans feel toward laws that restrict activity and commerce.

  • REGULATE SOCIAL MEDIA: Basically, no hate speech.  (This would never pass due to too much backlash from the “talking heads” on television and the politicians themselves.)

I certainly welcome your comments and I’m sure there are many many more action items that could contribute to tranquility.

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I feel that most individuals, certainly most adults, wonder if anyone is out there.  Are there other planets with intelligent life and is that life humanoid or at least somewhat intelligent?  The first effort would be to define intelligent.  Don’t laugh but this does have some merit and has been considered by behavioral scientists for a significant length of time.  On Earth, human intelligence took nearly four (4) Billion years to develop. If living beings develop advanced technology, they can make their existence known to the Universe. A working definition of “intelligent” includes self-awareness, use of tools, and use of language. There are other defining traits, as follows:

  • Crude perceptive abilities: Like concept of a handshake (sending a message and acknowledging receipt of one sent by you)
  • Crude communication abilities: Some primitive language and vocabulary
  • Sentience: Should be able of original thought and motivation, some form of self -awareness
  • Retention: Ability to remember and recall information on will
  • Some form of mathematical ability like counting

Please feel free to apply your own definition to intelligence. You will probably come as close as anyone to a workable one.

TESS:

NASA is looking and one manner in which the search occurs is with the new satellite TESS.

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is an Explorer-class planet finder.   TESS will pick up the search for exoplanets as the Kepler Space Telescope runs out of fuel.

Kepler, which has discovered more than 4,500 potential planets and confirmed exoplanets, launched in 2009. After mechanical failure in 2013, it entered a new phase of campaigns to survey other areas of the sky for exoplanets, called the K2 mission. This enabled researchers to discover even more exoplanets, understand the evolution of stars and gain insight about supernovae and black holes.

Soon, Kepler’s mission will end, and it will be abandoned in space, orbiting the sun, therefore:  never getting closer to Earth than the moon.

The spaceborne all-sky transit survey, TESS will identify planets ranging from Earth-sized to gas giants, orbiting a wide range of stellar types and orbital distances. The principal goal of the TESS mission is to detect small planets with bright host stars in the solar neighborhood, so that detailed characterizations of the planets and their atmospheres can be performed. TESS is only one satellite used to determine if there are any “goldy-locks” planets in our solar system. TESS will survey an area four hundred (400) times larger than Kepler observed. This includes two hundred thousand (200,000) of the brightest nearby stars. Over the course of two years, the four wide-field cameras on board will stare at different sectors of the sky for days at a time.

TESS will begin by looking at the Southern Hemisphere sky for the first year and move to the Northern Hemisphere in the second year. It can accomplish this lofty goal by dividing the sky into thirteen (13) sections and looking at each one for twenty-seven (27) days before moving on to the next.

The various missions launched to discover exoplanets may be seen below.

As mentioned earlier, TESS will monitor the brightness of more than two hundred thousand (200,000) stars during a two-year mission, searching for temporary drops in brightness caused by planetary transits. Transits occur when a planet’s orbit carries it directly in front of its parent star as viewed from Earth. TESS is expected to catalog more than fifteen hundred (1,500) transiting exoplanet candidates, including a sample of approximately five hundred (500) Earth-sized and ‘Super Earth’ planets, with radii less than twice that of the Earth. TESS will detect small rock-and-ice planets orbiting a diverse range of stellar types and covering a wide span of orbital periods, including rocky worlds in the habitable zones of their host stars.  This is a major undertaking and you might suspect so joint-ventures are an absolute must.  With that being the case, the major parterners in this endeavor may be seen as follows:

The project overview is given by the next pictorial.

In summary:

TESS will tile the sky with 26 observation sectors:

  • At least 27 days staring at each 24° × 96° sector
  • Brightest 200,000 stars at 1-minute cadence
  • Full frame images with 30-minute cadence
  • Map Southern hemisphere in first year
  • Map Northern hemisphere in second year
  • Sectors overlap at ecliptic poles for sensitivity to smaller and longer period planets in JWST Continuous Viewing Zone (CVZ)

TESS observes from unique High Earth Orbit (HEO):

  • Unobstructed view for continuous light curves
  • Two 13.7-day orbits per observation sector
  • Stable 2:1 resonance with Moon’s orbit
  • Thermally stable and low-radiation

The physical hardware looks as follows:

You can’t tell much about the individual components from the digital picture above but suffice it to say that TESS is a significant improvement relative to Kepler as far as technology.  The search continues and I do not know what will happen if we ever discover ET.  Imagine the areas of life that would affect?

 

 

MOT HAI BA

April 19, 2018


một hai baNorth Vietnamese Cuisine

Mot Hai Ba is located in the Lakewood Neighborhood of Dallas at 6047 Lewis Street and is one of the many gourmet restaurants in the city of Dallas.  When I think of Dallas I think of brisket, BBQ, ribs, flank steak, etc. I do NOT think of North Vietnamese cuisine—at all. Not at all. Quite frankly, I’m not too sure I have ever eaten Vietnamese food and I do not think we have Vietnamese in our “neck of the woods”.  When I saw the “North Vietnamese Cuisine” sign on the door I was a little concerned about finding a plate I could eat without calling the fire department.

Our daughter-in-law took my wife and me to Mot Hai Ba last night for dinner.  It was a marvelous surprise.   As you walk down Lewis Street to the restaurant, you first see a fairly small terrace that can accommodate four tables and about twelve or fifteen people.  Fortunately, the weather last night was sixty-one degrees with a cloudless blue sky.  We sat outside.

I went inside to take a look and discovered the area you see in the following photograph.  Once again, not too large but certainly a very cozy atmosphere.

I was very interested in the table settings.  As you can see, at each place was properly positioned chop sticks, small plate, napkin and one water glass.  No chairs, just padded stools.

Very small bar area with minimal seating for customers.  This is a place you eat and not hang out and drink. That fact became very obvious at first glance.

Now for the food.  I have copied the menu below from their web site due to my inability to capture the entire menu and provide readability.  Please forgive the segmented portrayal.

I had braised scallops on an eggplant sauce that was out of sight.  I love scallops but not a real fan of eggplant but this was absolutely marvelous.  Truly a great meal.  I don’t know if you travel to Dallas but if you do, please check out một hai ba. You will not regret this one.

 

THE MOSES ILLUSION

April 8, 2018


Portions of this post were taken from an article in The Chattanooga Times-FreePress.

Let’s do a quick quiz:

QUESTION:  In the Biblical story, what was Jonah swallowed by?  How many animals of each kind did Moses take on the ark?

Did you answer whale to the first question and two of each kind to the second question?  Most people actually do, even though they are aware that Noah, and not Moses, built the ark in that story.  Noah—not Moses.  You knew that.

Psychologists call this phenomenon the “Moses Illusion”.  This is just one example of how people are very bad at discerning factual errors in the world around them.  Even when people know the correct information, they often fail to notice errors and will even go on to use that incorrect information in other situations.  An “official” definition of this illusion goes something like this:

“In pragmatics and psycholinguistics, the Moses illusion is a phenomenon whereby listeners or readers fail to recognize an inaccuracy or inconsistency in a text. It is also called the semantic illusion.”

Research from cognitative psychology shows that people are naturally very poor fact-checkers and it is very difficult for individuals to compare things we read or hear with what we already know about a specific topic.   The Moses illusion (also known as semantic illusion) was first identified by T.D. Erickson and M.E. Mattson in their article “From Words to Meaning: A Semantic Illusion” (Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 1981).

In this era of “fake news”, this reality has very important implications for how people consume journalism, social media and other bits of public information.  In the study mentioned above, eighty (80) percent of the participants failed to notice the error in the question despite later correctly answering the question, “Who took the animals into the Ark? The failure occurred even though participants were warned that some of the questions would have something wrong with them and were given an example of an incorrect question.  Psychologists call this “knowing neglect”.  People have relevant knowledge but fail to use it.

OKAY, why are human beings so bad at noticing errors and misinformation? Psychologists believe that there are at least two forces at work.

  • First, people have a general bias to believe that things are true. (After all, most things that we read or hear are true.) In fact, there’s some evidence that we initially process all statements as true and that it then takes cognitive effort to mentally mark them as false.  At one time, I personally believed just about everything written.  I suppose it was because I considered this to be somewhat of a legacy relative to the writer.  In days gone by, a non-fiction writer would write to inform and not to confuse.  Back then I felt that most writers did NOT have a political agenda. Today, I would be absolutely incorrect with that supposition.
  • Second, people tend to accept information as long as it’s close enough to the correct information. Natural speech often includes errors, pauses and repeats. (“She was wearing a blue – um, I mean, a black, a black dress.”). One idea– to maintain conversations we need to go with the flow and accept information that is “good enough”. Just move on and if people

don’t fall for these illusions when the incorrect information is obviously wrong. For example, people don’t try to answer the question “How many animals of each kind did Nixon take on the Ark?”.

Detecting and correcting false information is difficult work and requires fighting against the ways our brains like to process information. Critical thinking alone won’t save us. Our psychological quirks put us at risk of falling for misinformation, disinformation and propaganda. Professional fact-checkers provide an essential service in detecting incorrect information in the public view.  They are one of our best hopes for zeroing in on errors and correcting them, before the rest of us read or hear the false information and incorporate it into what we know of the world.

FAKE NEWS:

Why on earth is there so much fake news?

There are two main creators of fake news. The most egregious creator comes from non-journalists who put out spammy garbage you see on the web that’s simply untrue. As mentioned earlier, we generally believe just about everything written with the goal of checking it later, then there is no later.  The second creator of fake news is not so much fake news, but biased news coming from journalists with an agenda. Biased news isn’t as egregious since we all have our biases that are hard to extricate from our actions. However, biased journalists can do greater damage due to their large platforms. I would like to see a disclaimer at the beginning of each blog or tweet, when needed— “WARNING:  this is garbage.”  Don’t hold your breath for this to happen.

With the use of clickbait titles, misinformation, and satire, fake news has the ability to affect public opinion about a person, country or issue. I am amazed at the number of people who gain information, political and otherwise from the late-night television shows.

Findings indicate viewers of late night talk shows tend to be politically unsophisticated and low news media consumers, relying on incidental exposure to news about current events that are introduced throughout the day in the course of other activities (i.e., news headlines on email servers, jokes in late night monologues) with one notable exception.  Viewers of “The Daily Show,” are on the other end of the political spectrum, reflecting high levels of political sophistication and high news media consumption. They tune into “The Daily Show” for a “twist” on news stories with which they are already familiar, expecting Stewart and his team to provide a humorous slant on current events. Apparently, the other late-night shows—-not so much.  It’s mostly relative to political discourse garbage.

CONCLUSION:

I know I need to slow down and take the time to ask the question—is this information true, partially true, completely false?  What do I know relative to this new information?  I am to the point of turning off the television set and reading a good book.  Who do you believe these days?  What news or media outlet gives a non-bias, only-the-facts, information-filled narrative?  I honestly can NOT answer that question at this time.

TEN MOST RELIABLE CARS

April 4, 2018


Conservative design principles may be the key to building a more reliable automobile, say engineers from Consumer Reports who studied vehicle reliability for their 2018 auto issue.  Nine of the ten vehicles receiving “much better than average” overall scores in every available year of the survey were either from Toyota or Lexus.  The only exception was the Acura TSX mid-sized sedan, which received a perfect score in every model year from 2010 to 2014. This probably does not surprise anyone.

Let’s take a look at what Consumer Reports considers the ten most reliable models.

CONCLUSION:

Consumer Reports’ ratings of vehicle reliability are based on survey responses from more than half a million vehicle owners. The surveys ask questions about 17 different potential trouble spots, ranging from engines and transmissions to fuel systems, electrical, suspension, brakes, body hardware, and in-car electronics, among others.

In the ratings, the Camry received “much better than average” ratings (the magazine’s highest score) for in-car electronics in four of the last eight model years on the Consumer Reports survey. It also received perfect scores in all eight years for three engine categories and two transmission categories.

Toyota’s conservative approach does have a downside, however, Fisher added. The company’s vehicles are often dinged by automotive writers for being “dowdy,” or just plain lacking in excitement, he said. “Other manufacturers are willing to take risks for the sake of a performance increase, or for fuel economy boost, or for excitement and drive-ability,” he said. “And those manufacturers continue to get accolades from their peers. However, I would argue that none of those accolades consider reliability.”

OKAY—what are you after? Bells and whistles or a reliable vehicle to get you to and from work?

 

HOMELESS

April 2, 2018


The month of March was a very active month for my wife and me.. Four weeks ago, we were in Dallas helping our family recover from the flu. Two weeks ago, we took our second granddaughter to Nashville for her birthday to see the Nashville Predators.  (She loves the Preds.)  Last week we were in Atlanta helping our oldest two granddaughters.  Tell me—what do these three cities and our hometown have in common?  Can you guess? Tragically, the answer is homeless people living on the streets and camping out on any available vacant lot.  In the greatest country on the planet, we have people living hand-to-mouth trying to scrape and fend for food.  In mid-March my wife and I were coming back from downtown traveling on eleventh street.  The waiting line into the Chattanooga Community Kitchen was at least a block long.  The Community Kitchen does a marvelous job and that service comes with great expense.  All funds come from donations and the United Way.

We are told in Matthew 26:11 the following:

Jesus Anointed at Bethany
10Aware of this, Jesus asked, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful deed to Me. 11The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have Me. 12By pouring this perfume on Me, she has prepared My body for burial.

Today that seems to be more prevalent than ever. Let’s take a look.

  • An individual may be considered homeless when they lack permanent housing and have to stay in shelters, abandoned buildings or vehicles, on the streets, or in other forms of unstable situations. They may also be considered homeless if they have to “double up” with friends or extended family members because they are unable to maintain their own housing situation.
  • More than 500,000 people are homeless in the United States: reports (Reuters) – More than 500,000 people – a quarter of them children – were homeless in the United States in 2016 amid scarce affordable housing across much of the nation, according to a study released on Thursday, Nov 19, 2015.

 

  • Staggering 2.5 million children are now homeless each year in America. This historic high represents one in every thirty (30) childrenin the United States.

 

  • The highest rates of homelessness among states are in Hawaii (465 per 100,000), followed by New York(399) and California (367). The lowest homeless counts per capita come in Mississippi (81 per 100,000), Indiana (94) and Kansas (94). Aug 8, 2014

 

  • Frequently, references indicate that homelessness, as we know it today, is rooted in severe HUD cuts during the early 1980’s. While policy changes did have a large impact exacerbating the problem, homelessness has been documented in America since 1640. In the 1640’s homelessness was seen as a moral deficiency, a character flaw. Nov 16, 2011

 

  • For women in particular, domestic violence is the leading cause of homelessness.  In our country the primary causes of homelessness among families are: (1) lack off affordable housing, (2) unemployment, (3) poverty, and (4) low wages, in that order.

 

  • The Treatment Advocacy Center’s newly updated backgrounder, “How many individuals with a serious mental illness are homeless” examines the percentage of homeless individuals with serious mental illness and their abysmal quality of life. Approximately thirty-three (33) percent of the homeless are individuals with serious mental illnesses that are untreated.  Many of these people suffer from schizophrenia, schizo-effective disorder, bipolar disorder or major depression.

 

  • In Massachusetts and Ohio, twenty-seven (27) and thirty-six (36) percent of people released from mental institutions became homeless within six (6) months.

 

  • Previously hospitalized people were three times more likely to obtain food from garbage.

 

  • Studies show that psychotic individuals are much more likely to get assaulted or threatened while homeless.

 

  • Though officials believe that they are saving money by releasing patients from mental hospitals, there is a significant cost to the patient and to society at large.  “In 2001, a University of Pennsylvania study that examined 5,000 homeless people with mental illnesses in New York City found that they cost taxpayers an average of $40,500 a year for their use of emergency rooms, psychiatric hospitals, shelters and prisons.”

 

  • The last time a global survey was attempted – by the United Nations in 2005 – an estimated one hundred (100) million people were homeless worldwide. As many as 1.6 billion people lacked adequate housing (Habitat, 2015).

 

The U.S. map below just about says it all.  Take a look.

CONCLUSIONS: 

Obviously, I do not know the answer, but surely there IS an acceptable answer to those who live on the streets.  I think about all of the children and the future they have while being homeless.  Wasted potential.  Hopefully we all can think about this and put those thoughts into action.  THERE MUST BE AN ANSWER.

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