Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Consider These Issues…

Lemmings (Photo credit: KAZVorpal)
…because I can’t decide on just one topic this week.

Quote of the Week

“There's a whiff of the lynch mob or the lemming migration about any overlarge concentration of like-thinking individuals, no matter how virtuous their cause.”  - P. J. O'Rourke


Microloans are a wonderful way to add a little intimacy to your charitable giving. I’ve chosen a platform called where I can learn about all the loan candidates and choose an individual whose business plan or cause appeals to me. I put a certain amount of money in a fund with lots of other folks, and each month the borrower makes a payment to me and the other lenders. The borrowers do pay interest, but that doesn’t go to me. That goes toward maintaining the program. My plan is that once my initial loan is paid back, in approximately a year, I’ll keep my money in the bank and make another loan, and so on, and so on. Check it out.

The Reliability of Medical Research

I’ve always considered the gold standard for medical research to be studies that are double-blinded and placebo-controlled. This means that there is a group of patients receiving the treatment and there is a group of patients receiving a placebo, and neither the patients nor the doctors involved with the patients know who is who. Only in this way can bias be eliminated from the results.

However, this article shoots holes in that standard as well, and I have to agree. As long as there are financial or career advancement incentives to produce certain results, usually positive results, bias can find its way into even the most rigorously designed studies. Damn.

Be Suspicious of Stories

As human beings we love to hear a story. We want the world to make sense, and stories often leave us with that comforting impression. In our stories however, we impose order and meaning where often there is none, and this can be misleading.

Of course, you could argue that this Ted talk is itself a story, but that just makes my head hurt. Please watch this and let me know what you think.

15 Things That You Should Give up to Be Happy

I’m not 100% bought into the whole Zen philosophy thing, but I find much of it to be very practical advice. A lot of this thinking runs counter to the Type A personalities that serve as models for success in the United States. This article suggests 15 personal characteristics that we would be better off without. I agree most strongly with items 3, 6, 9, and 15.

The Most Astounding Fact about the Universe

Neil deGrasse Tyson is a brilliant astrophysicist. Recently, he was asked the question, “What is the most astounding fact that you can tell us about the universe?” I very much like his answer – which he gives in this three minute video.


As is so often the case, science fiction may have had the right idea, in the form of the movie Jurassic Park. But this video doesn’t sound nearly as scary.
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  1. What an interesting and eclectic group of topics you presented here. I dare say I learned something!

  2. Webster, I'm glad you said eclectic. I like that. I'm trying to avoid eccentric, at least for now. I'm glad you learned something. Isn't that fun?

  3. I'm so glad you mentioned Kiva. I've been working with them for years. Those loans will turn over before you know it. It's something that feels good.

  4. I've been working on one or another of those things to give up half my life to mixed success.

    Fascinating mix of ideas today; no wonder you are never bored!

  5. Kimberly, I only discovered Kiva a few months ago. I am participating as part of a larger group of atheists who are out to prove that we can be good without God. Being able to participate with whatever group you are interested in is a nice feature. You tend to push each other along.

    Daphne, I have many afflictions, but boredom is not one of them :-)