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Wednesday, 30 November 2016

The Elite vs the People

I am baffled by the current use of the word elite and by certain people calling themselves anti-elitistWiki: "In political and sociological theory for a small group of powerful people that controls a disproportionate amount of wealth, privilege or political power in a society." Apparently, being part of an elite is now politically incorrect. It's an insult rather than an accomplishment based upon outstanding abilities, experience, knowledge, qualities or just heritage.

Similarly, I am annoyed by reports that the outcome of elections does not represent the People or the population. Clinton's "deplorables" comment also contained this elitist view: “You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up.” (eg, NYT).

Allegedly, some days before the election results, Bill Clinton had a big fight with Hillary and claimed that she was "tone-deaf about the feeble economy and its impact on millions and millions of working-class voters". "He repeatedly urged them to connect with the people who had been left behind by the revolutions in technology and globalization." "Hillary wouldn't listen. She told Bill that his ideas were old and that he was out of touch. In the end, there was nothing he could do about it because Hillary and her people weren't listening to anything he said." (Ed Klein in DailyMail)

In a way, Bill Clinton is another example of the "unneeded, unwanted and unbelieved" despite being an elitist with anti-elitist views. Donald Trump is another example of an elitist who gained success with anti-elitist views. The same can be said about the Brexit supporters and nationalists like Le Pen and Wilders. The post-Brexit betrayal of campaign promises by Farage, Gove and Johnson is part of their elitism. They don't care about the People, they just care about Power.

European politicians ask for solidarity with immigrants in societies in which houses are expensive, jobs are scarce, incomes are stable or declining, cost of living is only increasing, and in which welfare has been eroded for a decade or longer. These politicians ask for voter support while simultaneously ridiculing the views of people who complain about such policies. It's likely that their careers will end like Hillary's.

Bill Clinton is right: the Technological Revolution of 1800-2100 (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4) is indeed causing increasing global imbalances (eg, demographics, health, wealth) which are partly offset by an increasing (legal and illegal) immigration. The ever increasing urbanisation causes imbalances in global societies in which younger people migrate to cities and elders live in "dying" rural communities.

It's ironic that the Elite (1%) will always need the People (99%) to gain and retain Power, even in authoritarian regimes. The power of the people against the Powerful People roots in exercising voting rights. It's ironic that the power of the people has been eroded by their distrust in politics. It's ironic that the powerful people gain power by eroding their voters' trust in politics. 

Gino Vannelli - Powerful People (1974) - artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Look at the powerful people
Stealing the sun from the day
Wish I could do something about it
When all I can do is pray

Alanis Morissette - Ironic (1996) - artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Time & Space (1) - introduction

Our difficulty with Time & Space concepts becomes clear when we read that Antarctica was once tropical (ScienceAlert) and that Siberia was once subtropical (Guardian). It's hard to believe, isnt it? Yet, we have no problem in accepting that it's currently 20 degrees Celsius warmer in the North Pole and 20 degrees Celsius colder in Siberia, compared to "long-term" averages (eg, WCWP).

We also have no problem in accepting that Europe and USA are drifting apart by two cm per year due to seafloor spreading (source). Neither would we doubt that "the African and Arabian [tectonic] plates [are] drifting apart along two separate fault lines by one centimeter a year" (Spiegel). What's an annual 1 or 2 cm in a human life anyway? Yet, it's a lot in Earth's history.
The spatial dimensions of planet Earth may not be very impressive: a diameter of some 12,700+ km. Its time dimensions are impressive: Earth is some 4.5 billions years old, compared to 13.8 billion years for the Universe. At an annual rate of 0.28 cm, we would not even know if our planet Earth would "grow", like the Universe does. Also see my 9 March 2015 blog.

The tiny parrot fossil in Siberia was dated some 17 million years ago (Guardian). Science Alert: "The exceptionally warm period 55 to 48 million years ago was the warmest era in the Earth’s history during the past 70 million years." This timeframe is in between 2 of the 5 known Ice Ages: the Karoo Ice Age (360 to 260 million years ago) and the (current) Quaternary glaciation that started about 2.58 million years ago. Interestingly, the start of the Quaternary glaciation coincides with the earliest of humans which is estimated at some 2 million years ago.

There appears to be a relation between Ice Ages and the existence - and breakup - of supercontinents. Wiki: "Pangea was a supercontinent that [] assembled from earlier continental units approximately 300 million years ago, and it began to break apart about 175 million years ago. In contrast to the present Earth and its distribution of continental mass, much of Pangaea was in the southern hemisphere and surrounded by a superocean, Panthalassa. Pangaea was the last supercontinent to have existed and the first to be reconstructed by geologists."

Earth's plate tectonics do not only cause earthquakes (eg, Italy) and seafloor spreading, but are also one of the 8 known factors in climate change (eg, BGS, my 9 May 2015 blog). Latter now makes perfect sense given the above. Our climate also changes as a result of changing geographical positions on planet Earth.

Humans live in the Now and we don't really care what happened before us (part 1 and part 2 of History, Legends & Myths) and/or what happens after us (my blog Après nous le déluge). We also fear and hate Change (eg, part 1, part 2 and part 3 of the Promise and Fear of Change). 

I think, feel and believe that humans only believe in the Now as "seeing is believing". Often we doubt and/or deny our history (eg, climate change, creationism) and we fear our future. Sometimes it feels like a miracle that Faith, Hope & Love even exist.

Ilse DeLange - Miracle (2009) - artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Monday, 28 November 2016

Busy busy busy

As a boy, time meant nothing to me. Usually someone in the village had to mention to us that our parents wanted us to go home for lunch or dinner. Reluctantly, we did what we were told although often half an hour later or so. As a student, the pressure of time was slowly dawning on me.

Things really changed when I started working. The pressure of time (eg, office hours) was one of the most disappointing changes in my life. Finding a work-study-life balance came at the expense of the latter and benefitted the middle one. Nevertheless, I still had plenty of "me" time while living at my parents. Only with hindsight, I recognise and realise its importance.

Time really hit me in the face after cohabiting. Suddenly, there was no more "me" time. To some extent, there was even no more "me" but just an "us". Time had always been an unknown friend. Now its role changed and time and me were alienating.

At the peak of that alienation, (the lack of "me") time was suffocating me, without even realising it. This subconscious mental feeling caused physical stress. The physical stress found a way out through my back during an elevator ride in my early 30s. My body suddenly froze and I was unable to move. At the end of the elevator ride, I was able to get off but I have had back pains ever since when stress was mounting in my business or private life.

Finding "me" time while having a job, a family, a study or a sport, is difficult. Taking "me" time out of the available "free" time, often brings blame and guilt. I think, feel and believe that one of the greatest gifts in any relationship is granting someone guiltless "me" time (eg, fishing, other hobbies, separate vacations).

In my current life, time is once again meaningless to me. Often I need to focus to realise which day it is today. Out of habit, I still wear a watch. Without my watch, I feel an "emptiness" around my wrist. Whenever I'm using my watch, I look at the date rather than the hour.

For some time, I have felt a relationship between Time and Life. This feeling was too vague to get my grips upon. Now I think, feel and believe that our perception of Time is related to the 3 stages in Life, being: Needs, Wants and Beliefs (part 1, part 8).

In the Needs stage, Time is abundant as our responsibilities are minimal and our parents take care of us. As a child, Time always feels like a never-ending flow to us. Excerpt from my 20 October 2015 blog "In pursuit of happiness": "The second happy life is "about flow. [ ] during flow, you can't feel anything. You're one with the music. Time stops. You have intense concentration."
In the Wants stage, we juggle with our time consuming responsibilities (eg, family, kids, partner, sport, study, work). We maximise or optimise our time spent by economising on our sleep. The 1989 Queen song "I want it all" is a perfect description of the Wants stage. I think, feel and believe that our issues with time management are related to our sleep management (my 2 June 2016 blog).

Since I have entered the Beliefs stage, Time finally feels on my side again. It brings me peace of mind, no physical stress, and mental clarity. My writing is the (self) surprising and unexpected result. It feels like I am floating on time and I like it.

Floaters - Float On (1977) - artists, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Queen - I Want It All (1989) - artistslyricsvideoWiki-1Wiki-2

Deep Purple - Child in Time (1970) - artists 1, artists 2, lyricsvideoWiki-1Wiki-2

Sunday, 27 November 2016

I am wishing on a star

Wishing On A Star

I'm wishin' on a star
To follow where you are
I'm wishin' on a dream
To follow what it means

I'm wishin' on a star
To follow where you are
I'm wishin' on a dream
To follow what it means

And I wish on all the rainbows that I see
I wish on all the people who really dream
And I'm wishin' on tomorrow, praying it'll come
And I'm wishin' on all the lovin' we've ever done

I never thought I'd see
A time when you would be
So far away from home
So far away from me

Just think of all the moments that we spent
I just can't let you go, for me you were meant
And I didn't mean to hurt you, but I know
That in the game of lovin', you reap what you sow

I feel it's time we should make up, baby
I feel it's time for us to get back together
And make the best of things, oh, baby, when we're together
Whether or never

I feel it's time we should make up, baby
I feel it's time for us to get back together
And make the best of things, oh, baby, when we're together
Whether or never

I'm wishing on a star
To follow where you are
I'm wishin' on a dream
To follow what it means

And I wish on all the rainbows that I see
I wish on all the people we ever greeted
And I'm hopin' on all the days to come and days to go
And I'm hopin' on days of lovin' you so

I'm wishin' on a star
To follow where you are
I'm wishing on a star, whoa-oh
And I wish on all the rainbows that I see

I'm wishin' on a star
To follow where you are
I'm wishin' on a star

Rose Royce - Wishing on a Star (1978) - artists, lyricsvideo, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Saturday, 26 November 2016

The Rise and Fall of Donald Trump

On 10 November 2016, George Friedman repeated a cornerstone in his geopolitical viewsHow Important Is the US President – or Any Leader? Essentially, I agree with him that we tend to overrate the importance of an individual President or Prime Minister, whether in Europe or USA.

Many rules have the famous - or notorious - exception. In this case, the "rule" is that it doesn't really matter who is the next U.S. President as external forces will restrict his abilities to inflict change upon America and/or the world. Might Donald Trump be that exception?

I think, feel and believe that the answer is a Yes and a No - or "It's complicated" (IMDb, Wiki). The short-term "Yes" will ultimately result in a long-term "No". The earliest indications on the duration of the initial "Yes" are not very promising (if and when you're a supporter of him).

Eliot Cohen, a professor of international politics at Johns Hopkins University and a former George W. Bush official, has even warned his fellow Republicans - hopeful of earning a federal appointment from President-elect Donald Trump - to "stay away" from Trump's "angry, arrogant" team" and that working for the billionaire businessman could mean "compromising one’s integrity and reputation"(eg, Atlantic, Independent, NYT, Politico).

In a way, George Friedman's view is supported by a September 2016 prediction of Allan Lichtman, an American political historian who teaches at American University in Washington, D.C. Since May 2016, Allan Lichtman has "insisted that Trump was lined up for a win — based on the idea that elections are “primarily a reflection on the performance of the party in power.” (WP).

Washington Post: "At the end of our September conversation, Lichtman made another call: that if elected, Trump would eventually be impeached by a Republican Congress that would prefer a President Mike Pence — someone whom establishment Republicans know and trust."

A Republican impeachment of a Republican President would be an extraordinary event. Yet, it would also be an example of the external forces that will restrict any President's ambitions to inflict change. George Friedman's rule is ultimately about the leveling forces in life, nature and the universe.

The chances on a Trump impeachment grow considerably when Trump is not able to recruit people whom he can rely on to execute his campaign promises. Trump's current entourage is bound to make the kind of mistakes that would lead to his future impeachment. 

While writing this blog, George Friedman just released a new GPF article on the similarities between the 1917 Russian revolution and Trump's promise of revolution. Excerpt: "It is possible to break the gridlock in Washington. Presidents [] Roosevelt and [] Reagan both did it – not by draining the swamp, but by surrounding themselves with people like Harry Hopkins and James Baker, who knew exactly what they needed to do and could honestly state what could not be done." 

Probably, the only exception to George Friedman's rule is true authoritarian power, like Genghis Khan or his grandson Kublai Khan. Sooner rather than later, Trump will be a footnote in history.

Rodney Black and the Blacklist - Footnote (In Your History) - FBsong, YT

Friday, 25 November 2016

The system is rigged

Before the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, Donald Trump claimed the "system was rigged". Trump is a notorious flip-flop when it comes to his opinions. He also uses "reverse psychology" in case of bold accusations. Hence, I stated in my 6 August and 22 October blogs that Trump probably implied that the system was rigged in his favour.

Afterwards, the Democrats claimed the "system was rigged" as the Electoral College overrules the U.S. popular vote. This complaint only emerges when there is a different outcome between both. Snopes: "On four occasions prior to 2016 (most recently in 2000), the Electoral College installed in the White House a president who received fewer popular votes than his opponent."

On 9 November 2016, it was clear that Clinton had won the popular vote albeit by a small margin. That small margin still continues to grow until today. On 23 November 2016, Politico reported that "Clinton's lead in the popular vote surpasses 2 million". For a breakdown, see the "spreadsheet compiled by David Wasserman, an editor at Cook Political Report who is tracking turnout" (Snopes).

To put this number of 2 million in some perspective, I refer to a 23 November NYT quote: "Hillary Clinton has widened her lead in the popular vote to 1.5 percentage points, a spread not seen for a losing candidate since the disputed election of 1876."

On 22 November 2016, New York Magazine reported the following: "Experts Urge Clinton Campaign to Challenge Election Results in 3 Swing States". This article is slowly gaining traction (eg, CNN, Guardian, HFD, UC Berkeley). The latest news is that Jill Stein may/will challenge the election results of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin (eg, Guardian).

The issue at hand is this: "The academics presented findings showing that in Wisconsin, Clinton received 7 percent fewer votes in counties that relied on electronic-voting machines compared with counties that used optical scanners and paper ballots." (NYMag)

NYMag: "While it’s important to note the group has not found proof of hacking or manipulation, they are arguing to the campaign that the suspicious pattern merits an independent review — especially in light of the fact that the Obama White House has accused the Russian government of hacking the Democratic National Committee."

The worst possible outcome of this news would be that the system was indeed rigged. This may explain why President Obama and Hillary Clinton keep a low profile. Moreover, any challenge of the election results would label them as "sore losers". Even if they would win this battle then they would lose the war: half of the voters would no longer trust the outcome of future elections.

This NY Magazine article is bound to become the basis of conspiracy theories, especially as it's in the public interest not to disclose any facts about foreign hacking. Sometimes, a white lie is better than the ugly truth. Moreover, a Trump Presidency is likely to start and end as Brexit: in chaos. Chaos is part of Change and finding a new Equilibrium (part 1, part 2, part 3).

Fleetwood Mac - Little lies (1987) - artists, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

If I could turn the page
In time then I'd rearrange just a day or two
Close my, close my, close my eyes
But I couldn't find a way
So I'll settle for one day to believe in you
Tell me, tell me, tell me lies
Tell me lies
Tell me sweet little lies

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Denial (2) - the Truth as a Belief system

Lately, I have used the word "denial" quite often. It took me some time finding my 4 August 2015 blog on Denial. After re-reading that blog, I felt it needed an overhaul as it didn't cover some angles. Hence, I prepared a diagram to explain the various angles of denial. Please picture the outcome of the 2016 American Presidential election while examining this diagram.

It's important to realise that there are 2 types of denial:
-  Denial: does Reality match my Expectations? No = grief and delayed acceptance.
- Deep denial: does Reality match my Beliefs? No = non acceptance.

Denial is a temporary phenomenon as most people tend to accept the truth after an initial outburst of anger, bargaining, and depression. Denial is the 1st stage of the Kübler-Ross model of processing grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance - or DABDA. The grief is caused by high expectations and shattering reality. The higher the expectations, the more grief.

Deep denial is a (semi) permanent state in which reality is not accepted as it does not match the Truth in which the person believes. This Truth is one of the extreme beliefs in my concept of the 7 Belief systems. People in deep denial use psychological "tools" to cope with daily life: (1) use of conspiracy theories when the Truth relates to others, and (2) use of reverse psychology and projection when the Truth relates to oneself.  These "tools" allow people to continue "functioning" in society.

It's important to realise that Reality is restricted, both in Time and Space, to known knowns (ie, facts, history). Reality does not cover known unknowns (ie, opinions, myths), unknown knowns (ie, intuition, legends) and certainly not unknown unknowns (ie, imagination). Future new data can - and thus will - create new Realities (eg, the 1615 trial of Galileo Galilei on heliocentrism).

Suddenly I remember a quote from a Lisa Stansfield song - Change: "Believing is the answer, the answer to all your fears". This song line makes me realise that I need to update my 25 April diagram in my 28 April 2016 blog - Sometimes Love is not enough.

I think, feel and believe that I finally see the essence now; see my updated diagram to the right. Faith - or Beliefs - is our human core and governed by Hope, Trust, Love, Doubt, Fear and Despair.

Denial does not affect these fundamentals. Deep denial is similar to clinging on to your fundamentals.

Changing your belief is a very difficult process and sometimes necessary to survive. Else you drown.

Banks - Drowning (2014) - artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Can you follow me out to the water?
I can show you we're sinking deeper
Let me know
Cause I'm drowning for ya

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Needs-Wants-Beliefs (8) - conclusion

This summer, I learned that some bigger birds in my garden drop walnuts on my pavement in order to crack them open. This became clear after investigating the source of the "falling" sound that I heard around me, occasionally. After each drop, I also noticed increased bird chatter. It finally explained the cracked walnut parts which I had noticed in my garden over the years. Clearly, birds use gravitation and hardened soil (eg, pavement) as tools for getting (or: wanting) food.

NYT, 19 October 2016: "The capuchin monkeys of Serra da Capivara National Park in Brazil are well known for using rocks. They use them as hammers to crack open nuts. They use them for digging. They even use them to show off to potential mates. Now scientists report that they also spend time banging stones together, for no clear reason, producing sharp-edged stone flakes that are just like some of the first tools of early humans." (eg, video)

The Nature video states that scientists assumed for a long time that only humans made tools in evolutionary history. This Nature video also makes the weird claim that tools made by animals are unintentional while human tools are intentional. This scientific claim immediately reminds me of an Albert Einstein quote : "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe!"

Wiki: "Tools are used by animals to perform behaviours including the acquisition of food and water, grooming, defence, recreation or construction. Originally thought to be a skill only possessed by humans, some tool use requires a sophisticated level of cognition. There is considerable discussion about the definition of what constitutes a tool and therefore which behaviours can be considered as true examples of tool use. A wide range of animals are considered to use tools including mammals, birds, fish, cephalopods and insects."

The use of tools by animals is another illustration of my Needs-Wants-Beliefs concept. Initially, I assumed that only Primates would be in the 2nd stage of Wants. The use of tools by animals appears to be a defining characteristic for this 2nd stage.

The use of tools by animals is also relevant for how we should perceive (self) awareness and consciousness. Humans are far less unique than we think we are. Denying intentionality in using tools by animals, is also denying awareness and consciousness in animals.

I think, feel and believe that our main difference with other lifeforms is our perception of reality - a.k.a. our beliefs - and the resulting human 7 Belief systems: Love, Money, Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Science and the Truth.  

Brooklyn Funk Essentials - The Creator has a Master Plan (1995)
artists, lyrics, video, Wiki

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Fake news

Facebook and Google are embroiled in discussions on their alleged reporting of fake news (eg, NYT). Some people even blame Facebook's fake news on Hillary Clinton's loss, which Mark Zuckerberg denies. I have noticed fake news on FB but usually these sources are obscure and reading the first few lines was enough. Blaming others (eg, FB) is usually rooted in Kubler-Ross stage 3 - Bargaining.

Sometimes fake news isn't easy to recognise especially when mainstream media start repeating it. A recent example from Learning Mind: "Children Receive the Intelligence Gene from Their Mother, Not Their Father, Study Finds" (eg, Huffington PostIndependent, RedditTimes of India).

This news made no (biological) sense to me - or to others (eg, Quora). Hence, I started looking for a hoax. Fact checker Snopes confirms this story is bogus and so does Forbes. Interestingly, Snopes states that this fake news went viral after a “Second Nexus” [article] was reposted by notable accounts, including George Takei's Facebook page".

The choice of the name Second Nexus is probably not arbitrary as Dutch-UK publishing house Reed Elsevier (now RELX Group) runs "the world's largest electronic database for legal and public-records related information database", called LexisNexis.

My diagram on the left explains how fake news is related to facts and opinions, information, beliefs and belief systems, and to denial

Essentially, fake news is neither based on facts nor does it express a genuine opinion. Its sole purpose is to confuse, like hoaxes do. Its motto is: If you can't convince them, confuse them.

Mark Zuckerberg's dilemma is related to my diagram: "This is an area where I believe we must proceed very carefully though. Identifying the "truth" is complicated. [] An even greater volume of stories express an opinion that many will disagree with and flag as incorrect even when factual. [] I believe we must be extremely cautious about becoming arbiters of truth ourselves." My hat tip to Bloomberg's Technology newsletter "Fully Charged"

Mark Zuckerberg's words may seem politically correct to some but I think, feel and believe his words are wise. Facts are only facts until new facts prove them wrong (eg, Galileo Galilei's trial in 1615 on heliocentrism). Similarly, beliefs are only beliefs until new facts validate these beliefs. Fake news often disguises itself as beliefs or as denial

Back in the 1980s, the Dutch Elsevier magazine had a slogan: If the truth is in the middle then the left should read right wing media and the right should read left wing media. Until today, I am still doing that to balance my subconscious mindset. "The Truth is out there, way out there" (TIME).

Ian Gordon - The Truth Is Out There (2015) - The X-Files Song

Monday, 21 November 2016

Viruses (4) - Ebola

The Dutch flu outbreak in November made me realise once again how much viruses hate sunlight, in particular ultraviolet light. A 3 November 2016 NYT-Science article on the Ebola virus made me wonder two things: (1) Why does the Ebola virus survive the abundant sunlight of equatorial Africa? and (2) Why does Ebola "only" reside in a particular West-African region?

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) information on the Ebola virus is clear: "The Ebola virus is an “enveloped virus,” meaning that the core of the virus is surrounded by a lipoprotein outer layer. Enveloped viruses such as Ebola are more susceptible to destruction with a number of physical and chemical agents than viruses without lipoprotein envelopes. Physical agents that can eradicate Ebola virus include heat, sunlight, ultraviolet light, E-Beam, and Gamma Rays."

You would expect that there is plenty of sunlight and ultraviolet light in equatorial West Africa. That should kill the Ebola virus. What am I missing?

According to TIME, the reasons why Ebola has not spread quickly beyond Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone is that these "three most-affected countries already had overburdened health care infrastructure before the Ebola outbreak. Sierra Leone and Liberia had not yet fully recovered from the damaging effects of long civil wars — Sierra Leone had two doctors per 100,000 people and Liberia had only one". On the surface, this looks like a decent explanation.

However, back in 2014, the NYT also published an article called The Ebola Conspiracy Theories, "contending that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had patented the virus and was poised to make a fortune from a new vaccine it had created with the pharmaceutical industry". Please also read my blog The truth about conspiracy theories: "(1) an extraordinary event happens, (2) media struggling for explanations on the Why, (3) Government response not satisfactory".

The problem with viruses is that they appear to be incubators of death and life, while viruses are not even part of Nature's Tree of Life. There is little doubt that viruses kill people but there is also little doubt that viruses cause human gene modifications. Again, I stress that we know little to nothing about viruses, please see my blog Viruses - Origin and anomalies.

A disturbing fact in the recent NYT-Science article is that "The virus may have evolved a new weapon against its human hosts. In studies published on Thursday in the journal Cell, two teams of scientists report that a genetic mutation may have made Ebola more deadly by improving the virus’s ability to enter human cells." Links to Cell Journal #1 and Cell Journal #2.

NYT, November 2016: "It is not clear what role the mutation played in West Africa’s epidemic. Perhaps it was only minor, compared with geography and the poor state of region’s public health systems, Dr. Ball said. But the fact that Ebola did gain at least one advantage that made it better at infecting human cells worries him anyway. We will almost certainly face another outbreak."

It's possible - and perhaps even likely - that viruses "look" for human soft spots to test and improve their abilities. In that light, they almost behave like humans would.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Are You Here

Are You Here

He's a real live wire
He's the best of his kind
Wait till you see those eyes
He dresses like this different scene
He'll kiss you make you feel sixteen
What's it even mean?

Are you here
Are you here
Are you here, cause my heart recalls that
It all seems the same
It all feels the same

Pick me up

It's hard to recall the taste of summer
When everywhere around, the chill of winter
It gets so far away

Are you here

And he comes to lay me down in a garden of tuberose's
When he comes around there's nothing more to imagine
Just tuberose's

Are you here
Are you here
Are you here, cause my heart recalls that it
All seems like
All looks like
It all feels like
It tasted like
Tasted like

When he comes to lay me down in a garden of tuberose's
When he comes around there's nothing more to imagine
Just tuberose's

Wait till you see those eyes

Corinne Bailey Rae - Are You Here (2010) 

artist, lyrics, meaning 1meaning 2video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

For Joan (1962-2016)

5.000 euro boete??

De eis van het Openbaar Ministerie (OM) in haar zaak tegen Geert Wilders zal niemand tevreden stemmen. De eisers in dit proces zouden liefst een gevangenisstraf zien terwijl de verdediging alleen vrijspraak als principieel juist ziet. Een eis van 5.000 euro boete past dan ook niet bij de aard van dit proces. Zoiets past bij een politierechter, met een lik-op-stuk beleid.

De eis van het OM maakt bovendien duidelijk dat groepsbelediging maximaal 5.000 euro kost. Betaling daarvan zal nauwelijks op problemen stuiten. Geert Wilders zal vooral de enorme waarde van de vrije publiciteit zien, die dit proces heeft bewerkstelligd: Wilders als martelaar, Wilders als slachtoffer van het "systeem". De eisers hebben een Pyrrus overwinning behaald: een slag gewonnen maar de oorlog verloren.

Alle publiciteit is gunstig voor politici - ook negatieve publiciteit. Dit laatste is nog eens heel duidelijk geworden na de uitverkiezing van Donald Trump tot 45e President van Amerika. Volgens de meeste deskundigen had Trump geen schijn van kans. Zijn lage campagne uitgaven werden door veel deskundigen als een beginnersfout gezien. Trump zag vooral de waarde van gratis publiciteit.

De crux van dit proces zit hem in een oud Nederlands gezegde: "er is meer gelijk dan eigen gelijk". Je gelijk halen - en gelijk krijgen - "lijkt een nuttige bezigheid. Wanneer je gelijk hebt voel je je namelijk goed. Toch is gelijk krijgen niet zo waardevol als je zou denken. Steeds wanneer je iemand kritiek geeft, iemand corrigeert of iemand zijn ongelijk bewijst dan doe je je eigen ego een gunst. De kans is echter groot dat de relatie met deze persoon verslechtert." (SoChicken)

Partijen die niet langer met elkaar praten proberen via de rechtspraak hun eigen gelijk te halen. Dit speelt niet alleen bij het proces Wilders maar ook bij vrijwel alle vechtscheidingen. Er is hier sprake van een zero-sum game: er zijn slechts winnaars en verliezers in deze strijd.

Politici horen niet in de rechtbank thuis maar alleen in het stemhokje. Alleen kiezers dienen hun woorden en daden te beoordelen, niet rechters. De kans is alleen maar groter geworden dat kiezers zich nu zullen identificeren met Wilders als martelaar en slachtoffer. Geert Wilders zal er alles aan doen om dat beeld te blijven herhalen. De kracht van de boodschap ligt in de herhaling. Ook bij Trump speelde herhaling van zijn boodschap een belangrijke rol.

Het OM benadrukte telkens dat er sprake was van opzet bij de betwiste "minder minder" uitspraak van Geert Wilders. Ik heb weinig twijfel of er sprake was van opzet. De echte vraag is of Geert Wilders opzettelijk op een publiek proces heeft aangestuurd. De echte vraag die we onszelf moeten stellen is: wie gebruikt/misbruikt wie nou eigenlijk in dit proces?

Ik heb respect voor de mening van Geert Wilders maar zal nooit op hem stemmen. Net als Trump, vertegenwoordigt Geert Wilders echter een segment aan kiezers dat zich niet langer herkent in types als Buma, Klaver, Pechtold, Roemer en Samson. De klachten van die kiezers zijn niet "fout". Mijn fundamentele bezwaar bij Wilders is dat hij geen oplossingen biedt maar slechts slogans. Daar schiet niemand wat mee op. De post-Brexit chaos in Engeland heeft dat glashard duidelijk gemaakt.

Want je kunt niets zeker weten en alles gaat voorbij.
Maar ik geloof, ik geloof, ik geloof,
ik geloof, ik geloof in jou en mij.

The Unneeded, Unwanted & Unbelieved

The title of this blog may look like a 1970s Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western. Well it's not. The title is my adaption of a recent NYT article by the Dalai Lama: "Behind Our Anxiety, the Fear of Being Unneeded". I admit that I hadn't thought before about the reciprocal of my Needs-Wants-Beliefs concept. The Dalai Lama's choice of the word "Unneeded" touched a nerve inside me.

The Unneeded seem to be the people as of a certain age that may start around 50, depending on your specific country. The Unwanted seem to be the people below the age of the Unneeded but whose background (eg, colour, education, experience, language, sexuality) provides a mismatch. The Unbelieved seem to be the ones whose opinions are disregarded following political (in)correctness.

Hillary Clinton once referred to the American Unneeded, Unwanted and Unbelieved as a "basket of deplorables" (eg, WP). When you feel miserable then the last thing you want to hear is that you're also a deplorable. Her poor choice of words was an insult to many American voters. 

To a certain extent, I feel Unneeded at the age of 56, and also Unwanted with my business experience in shrinking sectors like Automotive and Banking. Although Auditing should be a last resort, my audit experience appears to be outdated. That is actually hard to believe as auditing feels like riding a bike to me. Once you have learned it, you don't forget. My previously unknown passion - writing - appears to be successful and that keeps me from also feeling Unbelieved. Since 13 November 2016, I have 100,000+ page views. My next milestone is 1 million page views.

The Unneeded, Unwanted and Unbelieved are not only the unemployed. They are also the (grand) parents unvisited by their busy (grand) children, (terminally) sick people without visitors, forgotten prisoners, reclusive neighbours, and so on and so forth. Sometimes you wonder how long it would take in this society before anyone would reach out to you during a prolonged silence. Hence, my mother (82) proposed to call me each day as we both live alone. I agreed.

Dalai Lama in NYT: "This speaks to a broader human truth: We all need to be needed. Being “needed” does not entail selfish pride or unhealthy attachment to the worldly esteem of others. Rather, it consists of a natural human hunger to serve our fellow men and women. As the 13th-century Buddhist sages taught, “If one lights a fire for others, it will also brighten one’s own way.”

The Dalai Lama states that we should start each day by consciously asking ourselves: “What can I do today to appreciate the gifts that others offer me?” The 1961 JFK quote - "ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country" - comes close to this.

The ancient wisdom of Karma would teach that we should do good and then kindness will return to us. The pay it forward philosophy is a good deed to an unknown and future benefactor rather than returning favours to a known and existing one (eg, coffee, meals).

The Dutch government's plan for offering healthy ageing people a way to end their lives, is certainly not the way forward for societies. See my recent Right to Die blog. It only underlines that you are not Needed, not Wanted, and that no one Believes in you any longer.

Detroit Emeralds - Feel the Need in me (1972) - artists, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Friday, 18 November 2016

Happy or unhappy, a zero-sum game?

Some people claim that happiness is a choice (eg, Ralph Marston). If that is true then it's one of the hardest choices ever.

I think, feel and believe that this difficult choice is because of a phenomenon called the zero-sum game, in which "each participant's gain or loss is exactly balanced by the losses or gains of the other participants".

We assume that choosing for our own happiness implies that someone else's happiness will suffer (eg, children, lover, parents, partner). It's hard to imagine that breaking up with someone could cause emotional synergy in which the sum of its (new) parts is greater than the (previous) whole.

There will always be additional reasons for staying in an unhappy situation (eg, relationship, sport, study, work). These reasons have been covered in previous blogs: am I worth it, guilt, regret & remorse, and shame. I think, feel and believe that we - subconsciously - punish ourselves by staying in this unhappy situation. It's related to self-flagellation and/or penance.

There may be another issue, which relates to the difference between altruism and narcissism.

Penance and self-flagellation may feel like altruism to the one who chooses to be unhappy.
Choosing for one's own happiness may feel like egocentrism or - worse - narcissism. A narcissist would have no problem choosing for his/her own happiness and disregard all others in that (zero-sum) happiness equation.

With the knowledge of hindsight, we are likely to find out that breaking-up unhappiness was not a zero-sum game after all. Unhappiness often creates negative synergy. Hence, it's better to be (un)happy alone than unhappy together. Any break-up of an unhappy situation (eg, relationship, sport, study, work) is likely to create positive synergy. I must stress that the same can not be said about breaking-up happiness (eg, sudden death of a loved one).

A choice for happiness should be a choice against unhappiness in order to create a win-win situation, in which "all participants can profit from it in one way or the other".

Happiness and Satisfaction relate to each other like Needs and Wants. A combination of Happiness and Satisfaction is - likely - only to be found in the stage of Beliefs (eg, Less is More). 

Pharrell Williams - Unhappy (Woodkid Sad Remix) - 2014

Thursday, 17 November 2016

United States of Europe (2)

There are two fundamental forces in life for uniting people: Love and Fear.

There is little to no Love lost between most European countries. There are several reasons for this observation. I think, feel and believe that language is the 1st and most important one. Each European country sticks to its own language (eg, French, German, Italian, Spanish). Due to the UK's Brexit, these differences in European languages are likely to become more important. To some extent, English was a binding language albeit not wholeheartedly for some European countries.

Secondly, there is a history of European distrust following the many continental European wars. The last big European war is some 80 years ago. Although Wikipedia shows many conflicts after WW2, few people will remember those. Distrust and Fear are closely related in this context but mainly with respect to country size. Some people may still distrust the French but would no longer fear them. The same cannot be said of Germany.

The European Union project has largely failed due to a lack of Love between European countries. This is not likely to change anytime soon, despite the British exit (ie, Brexit) which will remove one of the major obstacles within the European Union. I doubt this is enough for the remaining countries to suddenly start liking each other.

In the absence of Love, Fear is the best way to unite people. Recently, Turkey has shown the world how to do this since their failed coup attempt. Russia has a habit of using Fear. Both countries combine 4 successful ingredients: (1) create a common enemy, (2) a crackdown on news media, (3) using fear management towards people reluctant to get in line, and (4) playing the victim role towards the own population.

The element of Fear is slowly being introduced to underpin European safety and security. This introduction hardly needs any official European support as two global actors are making its business case: (1) the Russian threat in Eastern Europe and the Baltics and (2a) the election of Donald Trump as the 45th US President and (2b) Trump's view on the role of NATO.

The European fear for war is stronger than the European love for cooperation. Trump's threat of removing the American safety and security umbrella (ie, NATO) will force Europe to reconsider its future. Essentially, Russia is offering a simple future choice between continuing European lifestyle or becoming part of an authoritarian kleptocracy, ruled by fear and force.

On 10 January 2015, I published part 1 of my United States of Europe blog. Back then, my blog was implicitly built on Love for the European dream. Back then, I failed to see that there is a stronger argument than Love - being Fear. I think, feel and believe that we have never been closer to a European federation of independent states than today.

Federation of European States would be a powerhouse, controlled by reason and doubt rather than force. It would be our best guarantee for lasting peace with adjacent aspiring regional superpowers.

Doug Ashdown - Winter in America (1974) - artist, lyrics, video, Wiki

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

arXiv:1611.02269 or Universe Wide Web

Today's blog title, arXiv:1611.02269, was a teaser to get your attention. The article itself is a brain teaser. This long awaited scientific article by Dutch theoretical physicist and string theorist Erik Verlinde explains why the big-bang, dark matter, and gravity do not exist. It's potentially huge news, albeit for some.

I have been thinking about analogies to explain this to myself, a non-scientist. I have come up with two as the third one made perfect sense to me, right away: what you cannot see, does not exist (ie, dark matter). Especially, when that something would account for 96% of everything. An easy one.

The "easiest" explanation is gravity. We all know gravity from the theories of Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein. Newton's gravity is earthbound. Gravity in the Universe is a different issue. The image that came to my mind after reading about Erik Verlinde's theory was a glass of water and an object inside. This object either floats or sinks in that glass of water. Essentially, it reshapes the structure of (visible) matter.

The third one is more complex: the "big-bang" theory, and I'm not referring to the great TV series. Any explosion would not show an accelerating increase in speed. If anything, it should be an accelerating decrease in speed - until it stops. The images that came to my mind were twofold: the birth of any human being starts by just melting two cells together.

After melting these 2 cells an accelerating increase in speed happens. NCBI: "A current estimation of human total cell number calculated for a variety of organs and cell types is presented. These partial data correspond to a total number of 3.72 × 10^13" or 37 trillion cells. 

The other image that came to my mind is the human brain. Allegedly, we only "use" 10% of our human brain (eg, Scientific American). This image also allowed me to make a mental jump to information and knowledge which are key components in Erik Verlinde's theory.

I think (ie, facts), feel (ie, intuition), believe (ie, opinions), and dreamt (ie, imagination) that all 4 categories represent Erik Verlinde's theory of building blocks of information in the universe. 

Picture this: the WWW connects information stored on computers all over planet Earth. The Universe Wide Web connects all information from all over the Universe.

This feels so good !

Chuck Mangione - Feels So Good (1977) - artist, AllMusicvideo, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

USA 2016 - What's in it for Europe?

Following the unexpected victory of Donald Trump, many Europeans will be wondering if the same could happen here. My answer is a simple "yes". Whether it will also happen, depends on the attitude of the mainstream political parties. Many politicians still don't really understand what is going on.

The classic political differences between left and right are almost gone as a result of decreasing inequality. The remaining left-right differences are not large enough to win an election. Some politicians appear to have understood this but many do not. They still think in left and right and thus label nationalists as far-right in lack of an answer to this nationalist surge.

The nationalists blame the newcomers, like Muslims in Christian countries, economic refugees and immigrants in continental Europe, and Polish people in the UK. This Blame Game will work for some time but will then erode because it only brings slogans and not solutions.

Many European politicians just deny the arguments of the European nationalists, despite that voters believe these arguments. This situation mirrors the 2016 American Presidential election and we now know the outcome. Hence, my "yes" answer to the question if this political surprise could also happen in Europe. Denial prevents learning from past mistakes.

The classic left-wing parties will pay the biggest price as they are in deep denial. Newcomers (eg, immigrants, refugees) have always been a recruiting source for left-wing parties and this explains their traditional positive stance towards newcomers. The new ball game brings a Catch-22 dilemma: changing the attitude towards newcomers - or continuing denial - will both bring political disaster.

Many right-wing politicians act like monopolists, refusing to accept an oligopoly. They don't treat nationalists as healthy competition but argue on their right of existence. The Dutch PM is an exception as he appears to understand this new ball game. The opinion polls (eg, DDSTPO) between nationalist Geert Wilders (PVV) and Mark Rutte (VVD) show this too.

The only way forward is to accept the validity of the arguments of nationalist parties - and their voters. It's somehow like the old saying: if you can't beat them, join them. The remaining difference between nationalists and other parties is solutions. In general, nationalists are big on slogans and shallow on solutions.

People like Farage, Le Pen, Trump and Wilders are not wrong. Early on, they recognised something amongst the voters and then successfully leveraged on that. Only denial of the validity of these arguments will bring nationalists into Power. The rise of Donald Trump is proof of this. The future fall of Donald Trump (ie, Allan Lichtman's prediction of Trump's impeachment in WP) does not change this at all.

Accepting Change is hard for humans and thus also for politicians.

Lisa Stansfield - Change (1991) - artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

If I could change the way I live my life today
I wouldn't change a single thing