Saturday, November 24, 2018

Fooled By Randomness And The Black Swan

                                                                                                written 19 November 2018
                                                                                                published24 November 2018
            "Fooled By Randomness", by Nassim Taleb, describes his experience as a mathematician and stock trader.  He suggests we ignore low-probability, high-risk events, at our peril.  For example, is it worth playing a game that, 999 times out of 1,000, pays you one dollar, but sometimes costs you $10,000?  On each play, the mathematical expectation of winning is 999/1000 x $1 = $0.999, and the expectation of losing is 1/1000 x $10,000 = $10.  Added together, the expectation of each play is a loss of $9.001. The low-probability, but high-consequence event, also known as a black swan, skews the entire game.
            We are fooled by the randomness of black swans, and think the luck we have experienced so far will continue into the future, leaving us unprepared.  This applies when investing in the stock market, or just living in the 21st century California.  The market crash of 2007 was an unexpected black swan which destroyed the net worth of millions of people because they had not taken any precautions against such an unlikely event as a collapse of the housing industry.  Destruction by fire is a similar risk, but climate change, development expansion, and outmoded forestry practices, have changed the odds, and new black swans appear every year.
            A friend who used to live in Paradise, arrived by bus this week, carrying everything she owns.  The previous Thursday morning, a small fire started east of town.  Her first warning was a call from her daughter at 6:30 am, but there was no official news or alert.  An hour later the power went out and cell service ended.  She started packing things for a possible evacuation, but still thought the fire was small and would be contained.  A few hours later, she left town in a neighbor's car, traveling through fire on both sides of the four-lane freeway.  As I write this, the Camp fire continues to burn and has destroyed 11,713 residences and killed at least 77 people, setting state records in both categories.
            The hills west of Ukiah last burned in 1959. The Western Hills Fire Safe Council, part of a larger county effort, is working to organize neighborhoods to become more fire aware and resilient by improving community and personal infrastructure, emergency communications, and personal preparedness.
            The community bulldozed ridge-crest firebreaks two years ago, which are being refurbished and expanded.  A shaded fire break was created thirteen years ago along the western edge of the city limits, running from the south end of town to Low Gap road.  This break is 100' wide, with undergrowth cleared and trees thinned and limbs removed up 10', reducing fuel and allowing access for fire equipment.  Work is underway to widen the break and extend it south to the Boonville road and north to Orr Springs.
            Individual homeowners can prepare their properties by removing brush and trees close to their houses, removing lower limbs on trees, and investing in fire resilience roofing and siding materials.
            While these preparations will help in a slower moving fire, the fire storms we have seen in the last few years will sweep through unhindered, so evacuation preparedness is important.  While life and property are not being threatened, create a detailed list of material goods, including photo or video documentation of everything.  Plan what you would take if you had time for an orderly evacuation.  Don't forget supplies for an extended time, including support for your pets.  Make copies or digital files of your important documents, including insurance, automobile pink slips, bank accounts, and address books.  However, fires can move rapidly, so create a "grab and go" kit, in case you have only minutes to evacuate.  
            Another component of preparedness is communication.  The Redwood fire showed the necessity of local alert networks, as there was little official notification in that fast-moving fire. Personal communications between families and friends saved lives that night.   The county now has two notification systems in effect, MendoAlert and Nixle.   You can sign up for alerts on several devices at:  
            For more information about the county Fire Safe Councils, or to get involved in your own neighborhood, go to:  As the saying goes, the life you save could be your own.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Climate Change Revisited

                                                                                                written 10 November 2018
                                                                                                published 17 November 2018

            Most election results are in, and the analysis has begun.  The Republican gridlock on thinking has been broken for the moment, and consideration of real issues can begin.  For me, the largest issue is climate change, which has been denied, and made worse, by our anti-science president and his followers.  
            A recent scientific study found evidence that ocean warming over the past few decades is 60% greater than previously estimated.  This explains some of the rapid calving of ice off of Antarctica, and the very warm temperatures in the Arctic Ocean.  This year the Arctic sea ice minimum was the fourth lowest on record, and the onset of refreezing has been delayed by almost a month, a new record. Massive fires in the west and deluges in the east are causing people to see that climate change is happening right now, which helped to shift the House to the Democrats.  As I write this, the dark smoke cloud coming from the Camp fire in Butte county caused our street light to come on.
            But the fossil fuel industry, desiring to keep its lucrative status quo, used political donations to resist change, defeating a Colorado proposal for 2500' setbacks from houses for new fracking wells, and Arizona and Nevada efforts to set renewable energy targets for their states.  Only Florida was successful in limiting oil expansion, passing a ban on near shore oil wells.
            A more direct legislative effort to avoid climate suicide was Washington State initiative 1631, which proposed a tax on carbon emissions at their source. The tax rate would increase each year, creating a market based incentive to shift to de-carbonized energy systems. The funds would have been invested in renewable energy systems.  The oil industry spent over $30M to successfully defeat this initiative, advertising that the tax would increase costs for the poorest of our community.  While this argument is self-serving for the corporations, it raised valid economic concerns.
            A better alternative, called Carbon Tax and Dividend, is proposed by the Citizens' Climate Lobby (CCL).  The carbon tax would start at $15/ton of carbon, or greenhouse gas carbon equivalent, levied at the point of production.  An import duty based on carbon energy content, would be applied to every product imported into the country, if it hadn't already been taxed in its country of origin. This would eliminate shifting pollution overseas, and provide an incentive for other countries to enact a carbon tax, as climate change requires global effort.  This tax would increase every year at a fixed rate of $10/ton/year, giving producers a known incentive to invest in alternatives.  
            The difference between this plan and the Washington initiative is what happens to the tax funds.  Rather than an appointed committee controlling investment, 100% of the tax revenue would be distributed to the people, without regard to income or carbon footprint. This is similar to the oil dividends distributed to every Alaskan to compensate for the adverse impact of that industry on their state.  The return of the tax proceeds as a dividend makes this plan revenue neutral.
            The distributed dividend would address the concern raised in the Washington campaign.  CCL estimates that a family of four would receive an annual dividend of $540 the first year, rising to $2,640 within five years, increasing from there.  This would offset the increased costs of high carbon energy, and allow people to investment in low carbon alternatives.  As the production tax increases and companies invest in low carbon alternatives, millions of new jobs would be created, while reducing carbon emissions.  Find more details of this plan at  
            Some Republican conservatives are promoting a similar plan called the Baker-Shultz Carbon Dividends Plan. Go to for more details.  The tax and revenue neutral dividend functions are identical to the CCL plan, but with an additional gift to corporations.  The Baker-Shultz plan would eliminate EPA regulatory jurisdiction over carbon, repeal the Clean Energy Plan, and, most significantly, indemnify fossil fuel companies from liability for historic emissions, continued funding of climate denial, and misleading investors.  
            Even when faced with human extinction, Republicans try to game the system for exclusive corporate economic gain.  However, there is bi-partisan support for a carbon tax, so humans might endure.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Hope At The End Of The World

                                                                                                written 1 November 2018
                                                                                                published 10 November 2018

            I am writing this before the midterm elections, and you are reading it after, so by now we know how it turned out.  Did the blue wave flip the House, and maybe the Senate?  Did Republican voter purges and hacked voting machines save them in Georgia and Texas?  Did hundreds of millions in dark money rescue Republicans from mobs of angry women?  Were the elections even held, or were they cancelled by martial law, or foreign hacker influence? These are edge-of-your-seat times in America.
            No matter the election outcome, we humans are facing serious issues.  The global debt bubble may be collapsing. Our national debt ballooned to pay for Trump's tax gift to the elite, and the resulting rise in interest rates, combined with the trade war with China, are beginning to affect the economy.  Last month the Dow lost everything gained in 2018.  Depletion rate of existing oil fields are a fraction of new discoveries. America's fracking boom, scraping the bottom of the barrel, lost $250B in 10 years.  The energy return on the energy invested in fracking is similar to a firewood fueled economy, but produces quantities of toxic and radioactive wastes and accelerates climate change.  The latest climate report gives little more than a decade to make changes to avoid human extinction, and that may be optimistic.  Where does one turn for hope?
            What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly — Richard Bach
            It is my opinion that humanity is experiencing an evolution of consciousness, from duality to unity, from humans to humanity, which has been building for millennia. The old order is naturally collapsing because it is fundamentally bankrupt and out of harmony with nature.  I offer these words from the Arcturian Group, found at
            "Many of you have become concerned, confused, and even despondent about conditions in today's world, but keep in mind that you are witnessing the demise of an obsolete belief system that up to now has provided richly for those who benefit from conditions of anger, fear, and war.  They fear and resist any changes to the expressions of duality and separation, intensifying their efforts to maintain the status quo.  Having chosen to cut themselves off from higher dimensional energies, they promote and then utilize the energy created from the fear and suffering of others."
            "You who are awake are creating the changes the world has been longing for.  You are on earth at this time to assist with the birthing of a new and higher collective consciousness on earth.  Only the people of earth themselves can bring about the changes they hope and pray for.  You are the creators, formed of creator energy individualized."
            "The false ideology of most organized religions is based on the premise that an intermediary (saint, ascended master, guru, priest, shaman, ancestor, or even the local priest or pastor) is necessary in order for you, who are a lowly sinner, to access God in any meaningful way: a God separate from you."
            "The business of "soul saving" is a money maker for churches, keeping them alive and necessary in the minds of those who do not yet realize that God is fully present within them and not in a building, organization, or "holy" person.  The idea of needing to be "saved" is nothing more than the promotion of false beliefs in separation."
            "Everything needed to access God already exists within each and every individual because a person can never be separate from what they are, regardless of whether they know it or not.  Evolution is the process of awakening into higher levels of reality globally and individually.  The time has arrived in which all who intellectually know truth must begin to practice, embrace, and allow it to birth into a living state of consciousness rather than continuing to hold truth as interesting intellectual knowledge to be debated and discussed.  The Divine Self that is YOU is complete and whole in every way and as this realization fully integrates and becomes your consciousness, IT will express IT-Self in every facet of ordinary daily living."
            We are the change we have been waiting for.  Our mission is to live it.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Myth-Perception #3 "It's In Your Genes"

                                                                                                written 27 October 2018
                                                                                                published 3 November 2018

            The third myth-perception described in "Spontaneous Evolution", by Lipton and Bhaerman, is that our genes determine everything in our body and we are fated from birth.  This materialist understanding of biology was established in 1953, when James Watson and Francis Crick published their Nobel Prize winning ideas based on research showing that deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) consists of a string of four nucleotide bases, adenine paired with thymine, and guanine paired with cytosine (A and T, G and C), to create reciprocal strands of DNA, forming a double helix. 
            The bases A, T, G, and C, in sets of three, code for one of 20 amino acids that comprise the building blocks of proteins in the body.  A gene is the sequence of the DNA coding for a particular protein.  A molecule of messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) "reads" the gene code by making a mirror image of the gene.  The mRNA moves from the nucleus into the cell body, becoming a template for assembling the amino acids in proper sequence to form the protein.  
            In this description, information flows from DNA, by mRNA, to the protein.  But proteins encounter the environment and DNA does not, thus preventing the organism learning from experience, and evolution can only happen when a mistake occurs in the transcription by the mRNA, or the replication of the DNA during cell division.  For half a century, this material determinism has dominated western medicine and pharmacology, despite research to the contrary.
            In the late 1960s, geneticist Howard Temin, working with viruses containing only RNA, found the DNA of an infected a cell could be modified by the virus RNA, indicating a two-way flow of genetic information.  Temin was called a heretic, but later vindicated, sharing a Nobel prize for his work in 1975.  
            In 1988, English biologist John Cairns demonstrated that simple bacteria could modify their DNA in response to their environment.  Cairns was also vilified, but subsequent duplication of his results led to acceptance of this new understanding.
            By 1990, biologist Fredrick Nijhout, emphasized that genes are a code, like a blueprint, and determination of which genes are "read", and when, is controlled by factors other than the genes themselves, introducing the concept of epigenetics: above genetics.  Gene activity and cellular expression are regulated from external fields of influence, rather than the internal DNA.  
            The first few cells of a new embryo are virtually identical, but differentiate to vastly different forms in the mature animal.  If one of the early cells is destroyed, another one takes over that development path.  Biologist Rupert Sheldrake, in "A New Science of Life", suggested that morphogenetic fields, existing in higher dimensions, direct that reformation.
            The materialist paradigm was further challenged in 2003, with the conclusion of the Human Genome Project.  This massive effort began in 1990 with the goal of sequencing the entire human DNA. Assuming a one-to-one correlation between genes and proteins, it was expected that complex organisms would have more genes than simpler life forms.  Beginning small, they successfully mapped the 3,000-5,000 genes of bacteria, and the 23,000 genes of a microscopic round worm, which seemed to support their early assumptions.  However, the more complex fruit fly was found to have only 18,000 genes, and human DNA contains 23,000 genes, about the same as the round worm, even though the human body contains between 50K and 2M proteins.  This was a big surprise, and caused a crash in several bioengineering companies that had hoped to patent DNA sequences as proprietary information.  
            Current thinking is that each gene can express as many as 100 variations of a family of proteins.  There is ongoing discussion about how this works, and what controls the process, but signals from the external environment are clearly important.  For a human cell, those external signals come not only from the physical environment, but also from the state of mind of the person.  This is why stress can adversely affect the physical cells, and why the reduction of stress is so important to good health. Our body materially reflect how we think, and what we believe about the world.  To that extent, we are the co-creators of our fate, with our genes.