Jason’s Ranting & Raving

Those who don’t read have no advantage over those who can’t.

Archive for November, 2008

Solution? The Problem with Garbage Dumps

Posted by jaystile on November 26, 2008

One of the problems with garbage dumps is that we are mummifying our trash. Researchers find newspapers from the 1950s that are still readable and meat with fat on the bone that has not started to decompose. A garbage dump is actually supposed to mummify its contents so that dangerous chemicals and runoff do not invade the groundwater. We need garbage dumps! However, recyclable and compostable materials that should be decomposed or reprocessed are filling up our dumps. While the government has seriously cut back on the number of new permits for garbage dumps. Because of that, I’ve been thinking about what I could do to help the planet and minimize my footprint on it. One of the things we do in my family besides recycling (Thank you Waste Management for the ease of Single Stream Recycling) is composting also know as aerobic digestion. One of my problems with the compost pile is that we cannot compost all food waste. If you live in a densely packed neighborhood like I do you do not want a big stinky compost pile. Which means you cannot compost any diary, meat, or anything that putrefies. I was wondering if we could compost more items if we did it for a larger community? The methane released from decomposition could be gathered and broken down further by burning it in a generator providing electricity back to the community.

While I was doing a little research for this post, I stumbled upon two articles from ecocycle.org: Zero Waste Recycling and Single Stream Recycling. Someone has already beaten me to the punch in trying to solve the world’s problems! I was going to present the concept of community composting which would allow a group, like an HOA, to sign up for compostable materials removal. Like trash pickup, you’d put out your can of grass clippings, leaves, and food waste and in return you could pickup finished compost for your personal use. It sounds like efforts are being made to have a 3-bin style separating and using one truck to pick it up. One bin for recyclables, one bin for compostables, and one bin for trash. Let’s hurry and get me my 3-bin separator!

There are some other cool technologies out there for composting. I had first read about an anaerobic digester from a Heifer International newsletter. The anaerobic digester is an underground storage tank which is fed by manure and compostable materials. In rural areas in Africa the digester’s bacteria produce methane in the digester and this gas is siphoned off and used for cooking while the slurry (which is near ordorless after processing) is used as fertilizer. On PBS I heard of dairy farms using a similar system to use the methane to power generators to operate their farms and receive carbon credits.

Anaerobic Digester

Anaerobic Digester

I am glad to see people taking a greater interest in the life cycle of their garbage. And I appreciate the efforts being made by companies like Amazon.com who are trying to minimize the use of plastics in packaging in favor of recyclable materials with their ‘hassle free packaging’.


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Book Review: Every Hand Revealed by Gus Hansen

Posted by jaystile on November 19, 2008

As far as poker books go this was fun. It was NOT packed with theory, maximizing winnings, pot-odds, or reading your opponents. What it is is a recounting of every hand Gus Hansen played when he won the Aussie Millions tournament in 2007. It is amazing to see the hands he plays, and see the awesome moves he makes, and the terrible mistakes! If you’re into poker this book is a fun read. I started the book Friday night and was so eager that I finished it by Saturday morning.

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Book Review: Sklansky’s Theory of Poker

Posted by jaystile on November 19, 2008

Sklansky’s Theory of Poker. If you think you’re a poker player and you haven’t read this book you’re probably missing something. Let me cut to the chase, the paraphrased theory of poker is, “If your opponent knew what cards you had they would play correctly every time. If they play incorrectly against your hand, you win.”

I believe that the ‘math’ in the book was very subjective. It starts with a premise that may or may not be true, like “Suppose if you bet your opponent will fold 45% of the time”. Then it goes on to run a series of calculations to determine the expected value of your play. That’s a pretty big assumption to base the rest of your math on. Overall, a classic poker book to read and I would recommend it.

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Book Review: Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Posted by jaystile on November 19, 2008

This is a book review of ‘Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali’. Ayaan was born into the Islamic faith in Somalia. This is her story of growing up and rejecting the way of life in which she was raised. Her life is full of tragedy, adversity, and strife. This piece of non-fiction is wonderful to read and will effect you emotionally and intellectually. At times it is difficult to read because of the content, but it will leave you wanting to contribute to the betterment of mankind.

What did Ayaan want to accomplish in this book? Here is a quote:

The message of this book, if it must have a message, is that we in the West would be wrong to prolong the pain of that transition unnecessarily, by elevating cultures full of bigotry and hatred toward women to the stature of respectable alternative ways of life.

Ayaan brings to this book a perspective that us in the West will never get. She lived many places growing up. First in Somalia with her mother, grandmother, brother, and sister. Her father was in put in prison when she was very young by Siad Barre because her father was an activist who wanted to install a democracy when Somalia was governed by a communist clan supported by the Soviet Union. Ayaan gives light to what it means to be a member of a clan. She could recite back many generations with other Somalis until they found a common ancestor and then they were like cousins and had to look out for one another. However, each clan is also stereotyped. Some are meant to rule, some are meant to be businessmen, some are meant to be holy, and some are the scum of the earth and should be spit upon. Each clan gives in to and supports their stereotypes. Ayaan and her family were supported by their clan through many hardships. She brings perspective from her experiences living in Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Holland.

What does is mean to be an Islamic woman? Subjugation. You must submit to Allah. That is why when you pray you don’t look up, to look up would be to put yourself equal with Allah and that would be blasphemy. You must submit to your father and clan. If you dishonor your father and clan Islamic law permits them to punish you. If you are raped this brings dishonor upon your clan because you used your overly sexualized body to drive men insane, so you must be put to death. It was your fault you were raped. If you question your ma’alim (personal religious tutor) too much he can crack your skull against the wall without repercussions. You must be a pure virgin for your future husband, so you will be circumcised. They will shave off your clitoris and inner labia. They will then sew your outer labia together to form a nice thick scar and only leave a small hole for urine to leak out. On your wedding day your husband will rip open the scar with his penis or a knife and consummate the marriage and then show the bloody sheets to the family who will cheer.

Ayaan escaped from this life and started a new one once she received refugee status in Holland. She worked hard and got her degree in political science. She then went further and became a member of the Dutch parliament after she started raising awareness of the plight of Muslim women and the issues of immigration. The Muslim refugees in Holland and other places in the West do not integrate into their new country. They bring their old traditions, their old clans, and their old problems to their new country. Ayaan made a short movie with a Dutch movie maker Theo van Gogh called Submission Part 1. (Watch it!) For this movie, he was shot, had his throat slit, and had a warning note to others stabbed into his chest. Ayaan has received numerous death threats since she started speaking out.

In my opinion, everyone should read this book. It is time that everyone took a stand. It is time to be intolerant of intolerance. Free speech rules! Secularism and government go hand in hand. Religion and government lead to misery. A law based on religion has to be good for all those who are governed. I have noticed a trend. People read, they become exposed to different ideas, they read more, they form their own opinions, they reject dogma and become better people. Turn off those TVs, shut off the computer, go to the library and read something. I would recommend by starting with Infidel.

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Book Review(s) : Poker!

Posted by jaystile on November 19, 2008

My blogs usually have something interesting to say about the book I’ve read. However, this time not so much. Reading poker books it a lot like reading a dictionary. There is a lot of information to be had, but not too much fun to discuss at parties. I had a really good night at my last monthly poker game by ‘sucking out’ on people. We play pot-limit Texas Hold’em with $20 buy ins and $20 rebuys. Big bet poker is a lot of fun. You end up winning/losing about the same amount of money as if you’re playing $.50/$1 limit hold’em. The swings are greater and I think it is more interesting.

52 Ways to Cheat at Poker by Allan Zola Kronzek
I’m not looking to cheat, but I wanted to know what the angles are. I tried out a few of the cheats and they are surprisingly easy to implement. If you want to hinder cheaters most effectively, insist on a cut and make sure you make a conscious cut. You’ll notice Worm from ‘Rounders’ never offers anyone a cut. Once the deal has passed around the table a couple of times ‘count down’ the deck to make sure you still have 52 cards. If one is missing do not give the deck to anyone until you find the missing card. However, if someone is really good at cheating you’re probably not going to catch them. The best defense is just to play with people you know.

Read ‘Em and Reap by Joe Navarro
This book is presented by Phil Hellmuth even though he had very little to do with it. I enjoyed reading this book. It has a lot of photos with explanations. Will it help? Probably not, we have a pretty tight game at my place.

Play Poker like the Pros by Phil Hellmuth
I read this book when I first started playing poker. The concept ‘trust your instinct’ and ‘get a good read on your opponent’ are ubiquitous in this book. At the time, I was like ‘yeah… bulls@$’. If you’re starting off in Poker you could do worse than read this book. It covers the most popular poker games and initial strategies to get you moving.

Caro’s Book of Poker Tells by Mike Caro
This is a classic. Seriously, all the photos are from around 1970. But most of the tells I’ve seen in real play. They act weak when strong, they act strong when weak. Words to live by.

After all these poker books, tells, and reading Blink my mind has been on edge watching people. Are they comfortable? Are they avoiding eye contact? What do they want me to do? Why are they looking at me with their feet facing the other way? I’ve always enjoyed analyzing people and I think these books added to that enjoyment.

Let me know if you’ve read any of these and let me know what you think!

Now get to the library and read something! The next book on my docket is ‘Infidel’. I’ve heard good things.

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A letter from Dawkins

Posted by jaystile on November 19, 2008

A movie, “Expelled, No Intelligence Allowed”, was released featuring Ben Stein doing the Michael Moore type ‘in your face’ documentary. I need to preface this weblog with the fact that I have not seen the movie, nor am I interested in seeing the movie. I was curious to hear about some of the fallout. It seems that there might be a reference that Hitler was an atheist and applied Darwinian principles against the Jews. Please, read Dawkins well crafted response to an enraged viewer of the afore mentioned movie.


If you’re not into reading long winded articles, the short story is that there is a BIG DIFFERENCE between artificial selection (i.e., dog breeding, master race) and natural selection & evolution which is what Darwin is referring to.

The next concept is social Darwinism. Darwin did NOT create the phrase ‘survival of the fittest’. For more history visit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Survival_of_the_fittest In fact survival of the fittest taken literally would be very very bad for most humans. If we lived by this phrase as a law, then we would not have things like in vitro fertilization and antibiotics. There would be no need to, because the weak would not breed and not survive. Instead, we would have things like only the biggest/smartest/fastest would be allowed to breed. I don’t know about you, but I happen to like sex and I don’t think I would qualify for biggest/smartest/fastest. Maybe, I would qualify for biggest smart-ass. Also, politically only the strongest would govern. Do we need a great dictator? Nah, I’m good.

Now people, go out and read something! (and thanks for reading my blog Mom, no matter how much you don’t like it)

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Book Review: Blink – The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

Posted by jaystile on November 19, 2008

You are awesome! Thank you Macolm Gladwell for assembling this f@$ing awesome book, ‘Blink – The Power of Thinking Without Thinking’.

Normal people make near instantaneous decisions based on gut feeling. This book dissects those ‘intuitions’. Blink is broken down into many short essays describing different scenarios and the different research that is being done in the fields of psychology on this topic. It is so much fun to analyze how people work.

There are some correlations that can be drawn with topics in this book along with the others I’ve reviewed like “The Black Swan” and “Freakonomics”. What happens when your gut instinct is wrong? How can you prevent that from happening? Why can people not explain their decisions to you or why their explanations don’t make sense?

In all seriousness go to your library and get this book. I am surprised at myself because I read Blink continuously until it was finished. The subject matter is just awesome.

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Book Review: The Ten Cent Plague by David Hajdu

Posted by jaystile on November 19, 2008

‘The Ten Cent Plague – The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America’ by David Hajdu is an excellent history of comic books. It covers the advent of the comics with the first color printing for newspapers and ends in the early 1950s after everyone has officially lost their collective minds.

I found this book to be entertaining and disturbing. My early adolescence was filled with comics like Batman, Green Lantern, Spawn, and my personal favorite Wolverine. I still have my collections boxed up waiting for me to return to read them. My enjoyment of this book came out of the history of comics and how they were initially created for illiterate immigrants. It is one art form that is truly American.

The craziness in the book revolves around activists and pseudo-scientists saying that comic books were a cause of juvenile delinquency. This issue really took off in the minds of a conservative nation. However, real studies had shown no causality between crime and comics (big surprise there). The key expert psychiatrist Fredric Wertham made his own conclusions as to the causality instead of applying the scientific method. Also, his articles and opinions made their way to magazines like ‘Good Housekeeping’ instead of peer reviewed journals.

Long story short, people go crazy when there is an easy target for why good kids go bad. It is just as relevant today. Let’s take a little walk from 1950 and the other societal evils. ROCK N’ ROLL! Elvis was damming the children. TV, Ernie and Bert are homosexuals! They are damming the children. VIDEO GAMES, Grand Theft Auto made my kid rob someone! (no, sorry, your kid is a sociopath). I like to refer back to Freakonomics, your kid’s destiny is almost predetermined before conception. Most everything depends on who you are. Maybe if you set some limits on video game playing and not allowed overly violent games in your house ( you can’t stop them from playing at someone else’s. ) your child would learn that those behaviors are unacceptable. Now, if you happen to slap them when they spill the milk, they will learn from that too.

If you can find a link e-mail it to me because I want to include it in this blog. It is of a Calvin & Hobbes comic talking about causality. The philosophical conversation goes a bit like “Does violence on TV desensitize us to violence?” “Yes” “Does violence on TV cause violence?”

Now, go out there and read something!

Oh, I forgot, Dungeons & Dragons is damming the children! Roll a will save, DC 20, to prevent being overrun by the establishment.

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Book Review: The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Posted by jaystile on November 19, 2008

The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable Event by Nassim Nicholas Taleb is at heart a philosophy book about economics. My first reaction is that the book could’ve been shortened by about 100 pages. The major theme of the book is that you don’t know what you don’t know, so quit acting like you do.

A black swan is a highly improbable event. This can be good or bad. For instance, e-mail, who knew the ramifications it would have in every day personal and business life. On the negative side consider a recent black swan. The risk that was revealed that banks were taking investors money in the sub-prime mortgage meltdown with banks writing off BILLIONS of dollars as lost. These companies were considered a ‘safe’ place for your money.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb (NNT) gives examples in his book as a series of small essays or stories. He describes ‘confirmation bias’ which leads to the title of the book. If every swan that anyone has ever seen is white, then all swans are white. This is the problem. The actual statement should be that no evidence of a swan other than white has been found. (btw Black Swans exist in Australia). This confirmation bias is prevalent is all aspects of life as humans try to find evidence to confirm our worldwide. We are not skeptical creatures by nature.

The next item he rails about is the ‘ludic fallacy’. The ludic fallacy is that life does not mimic games. If you flip a coin 99 times and it is always heads what is the chance that the next flip is tails? The mathematician says 50%, the real world says about 1/100 and that the initial assumptions were incorrect. Also, there is no randomness in a casino. All the odds are fixed, and due to the law of large numbers everything averages out. If you go to the casino and ‘take down the house’, it is just a drop in the bucket. They prefer to have one million people bet $1 than to have one person bet $1000000. Then what is the casino’s black swan? How about a tiger maiming one of their star attractions on stage.

NNT goes on to criticize experts when they make predictions. There are some jobs where a person can be an expert. A doctor, a mechanic, an USDA inspector. It is a good idea to listen to them. The other ‘experts’ have jobs where they cannot predict anything but pretend to, namely economists. Real life resembles a fractal distribution not a bell curve that analysts use. You cannot predict a black swan, you cannot known the unknown, all you can do is prepare. You can prepare to jump at a business opportunity for a positive black swan, or you can hedge your investments against the negative black swan.

There is a lot more to say about this book, but you’ll have to read it yourself. It took me awhile to work through this book, but it was worth the read. Next on the list is ‘The 10 cent plauge’.

As a personal note to you, please read more. Those who don’t read have no advantage over those who cannot.

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Book Review: American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Posted by jaystile on November 19, 2008

Neil Gaiman is author of ’American Gods’ and the Sandman series of graphic novels (a.k.a. comic books). The gist of the story is that all the immigrants to America brought their gods with them from their country of origin. As people stop worshiping these gods the gods lose their power and influence. Since they are immortal the tend to just wither and do mundane things just trying to survive. The story revolves around the main character, Shadow, who is just released from prison and finds himself taking a job with a man named Wednesday (a.k.a. Odin, All-Father, of the Asgardian pantheon of Nordic tradition) The fun continues from there. A war is brewing between the old gods and the new gods (television, internet, etc.) There are some accurate things in the book regarding the origin of Easter and it’s traditions. Also, references to the Egyptian pantheon (Ra, Horus, Ibis, Bast, etc.), native American gods, and others I was not familiar with like the Albanian gods.

I enjoyed Gaiman’s Sandman series more than this book. I’m not really putting out a recommendation for anyone to read this. But if you have some time to kill it’s not a bad option. It feels as I am wasting time when I read fiction. I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished anything, nor do I feel like I have bettered myself. It should be remembered that those who don’t read have no advantage over those who cannot.

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