Archive for December, 2009


I’m currently in Winnipeg fighting off a cold since I have had the second day I got here.  I am incredibly frustrated at my lack of progress of getting better.  I have had a cough for seven days that really hasn’t gotten any better.  I experienced some sinus congestion on Monday that I thought the worst had passed.  Yet here it is Friday and it is worse now than it was then.  My nose is now becoming raw – again – because my nasal passages are inflaming and then discharging and causing me to run to the Kleenex box time after time.

This is seriously getting annoying.  This cold that I have is the worst I have had since Sept 2008 when it took me nearly two weeks to return to normal.  I really wanted to be feeling pretty good for my return to Seattle on Dec 27 but it’s looking doubtful that is going to happen.


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I traveled to Winnipeg this past Friday, catching an overnight flight out of Seattle last Thursday and touching down in the frigid winter capital of Manitoba at 10:30 in the morning.  What followed next caught me off-guard.

I am getting used to getting sick when I travel.  In Peru, I got a stomach something-or-other (that’s a new one), in England after living there for two months I caught the worst cold I have ever gotten in my entire life, in China I got a cold or something, in Australia I caught a throat infection, and even recently in Italy/Switzerland I caught a slight cold.  I think it’s all that time spent on airplanes.

Yet I attributed all of this to not being used to the geolocale.  I figured going to Winnipeg, all would be well since that’s where I am from.  Well, I was wrong.

Saturday afternoon, I noticed that I had a dry cough.  By the evening, I had a sore throat.  It’s now Wednesday, and it is currently day 5 of the sore throat.  But the worst was Monday.  I had a runny nose and went through a whole pile of Kleenex.  The unpleasantness of a runny nose is such that eventually, the skin on your nose becomes very irritated and red.  That sucks, big time.  Your nose is still running but touching it with a Kleenex brings an extraordinary amount of pain.  Regardless of that, I still have to do what I have to do.

Tuesday was better and today is better still.  I still have some mild congestion, an annoying cough and a little bit of a runny nose, but it’s gotten a lot better.  But when I got up today, I went to the bathroom and had a look-see.  I discovered that all of the skin around my nose was kind of dead, that is, like when you get a sunburn and it starts to peel.  That’s pretty gross, I think.  Not only that, it’s hard to remove because it doesn’t peel off like a sunburn does, you really need a pair of tweezers to get in there.  And even then, it doesn’t come off easy.

Man, do colds suck.

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Popularity contest

From time to time, I head over to Real Clear Politics and read the articles there.  Sometimes they are informative, sometimes not.  They are written by partisans, after all.  However, one thing I do frequently is check out President Obama’s job approval rating.  Below is a snapshot.


You can’t necessarily take one poll seriously.  What these guys do is aggregate several polls and average them out, and I think that this gives a generally accurate reflection of what the American public thinks of Obama.  From the above, the polls are clear: Obama has suffered a big drop in job approval since he took office.  Of course, George W Bush, when he left, was at about 30/70 so Obama has a ways to go before that.  But still, he was hovering around 65% in January and is now at slightly less than 50%.  The spread has gone from +45% to a mere +5%.  So what’s happened?  Here’s what I think:

  • He had very high expectations coming in that had more to do with dissatisfaction with Bush than hope for Obama.  As reality has set in and the hope hype has faded, his ratings have naturally come down.  No president can hope to maintain high approval ratings forever.  People get a change and are happy for a while.  What they don’t realize is that they were just happy for change that eventually that wears off.
  • During the summer, when the health care debate heated up, his popularity took a major hit.  All of the infighting reflected badly on the president.  The ironic thing is that I actually agreed with his administration’s position and let Congress handle it.
  • The economy has turned around, but unemployment continues.  Job losses are reported every single month even though they are becoming less and less.  The general public isn’t happy about this, and they aren’t very happy that large banks were bailed out by taxpayers… and pay out large bonuses.
  • The public is uneasy about Afghanistan.  The war there is definitely heating up, but the public isn’t sure they want to be there for the next decade.

In spite of all this, it is not Obama’s base that is abandoning him.  His base is the political left and they will never leave him, despite what they may claim.  What are they going to do, vote Republican?  What is leaving Obama are the political independents.  With a ballooning deficit and long-term military commitments, they are now starting to disagree with Obama’s administration and this is reflected in job approval polls.

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Now this is funny


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Confirmation Bias

Interesting article from Reason magazine.

Researchers at the University of Chicago have done a series of experiments looking at how people regard God’s intentions about issues. As the study notes:

Religion appears to serve as a moral compass for the vast majority of people around the world. It informs whether same-sex marriage is love or sin, whether war is an act of security or of terror, and whether abortion rights represent personal liberty or permission to murder. Many religions are centered on a god (or gods) that has beliefs and intentions, with adherents encouraged to follow ‘‘God’s will’’ on everything from martyrdom to career planning to voting. Within these religious systems, how do people know what their god wills?

Well, it turns out that God generally agrees with each individual believer. The researchers find:

Intuiting God’s beliefs on important issues may not produce an independent guide, but may instead serve as an echo chamber that reverberates one’s own beliefs.

The scientists conducted a number of studies, but one of the more fascinating was an fMRI brain scan in which they looked at which parts of believers’ brains were activated when they were asked about what they believed, what other people might believe, and what God believes about ten different moral issues. It turns out that thinking about what God believes activates the same brain areas as thinking about one’s own views. 

The researchers conclude:

[T]hese data provide insight into the sources of people’s own religious beliefs. Although people obviously acquire religious beliefs from a variety of external sources, from parents to broader cultural influences, these data suggest that the self may serve as an important source of religious beliefs as well. Not only are believers likely to acquire the beliefs and theology of others around them, but may also seek out believers and theologies that share their own personal beliefs. If people seek out religious communities that match their own personal views on major social, moral, or political issues, then the information coming from religious sources is likely to further validate and strengthen their own personal convictions and values. Religious belief has generally been treated as a process of socialization whereby people’s personal beliefs about God come to reflect what they learn from those around them, but these data suggest that the inverse causal process may be important as well: people’s personal beliefs may guide their own religious beliefs and the religious communities they seek to be part of.

Finally, these data have interesting implications for the impact of religious thought on judgment and decision-making. People may use religious agents as a moral compass, forming impressions and making decisions based on what they presume God as the ultimate moral authority would believe or want. The central feature of a compass, however, is that it points north no matter what direction a person is facing. This research suggests that, unlike an actual compass, inferences about God’s beliefs may instead point people further in whatever direction they are already facing.

Talk about confirmation bias!

Go here to read the study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


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Now this is funny

This is common in politics.


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