On Tribalism

We identify ourselves as members of all sorts of tribes; our families, political parties, race, gender, social organizations. We even identify tribally just based on where we live (Go Yankees).

Tribalism is pervasive, and it controls a lot of our behavior, readily overriding reason. Think of the inhuman things we do in the name of tribal unity. Wars are essentially tribalism. Genocides are tribalism - wipe out the other group to keep our group safe – taken to madness.

Another example is the polarized way we argue about so many issues, and the irony that as we make these arguments we claim to be intelligent (smart, therefore right) yet we ignorantly close our minds to views that conflict with ours. Trump supporter? You're a Nazi!

Research has found that the more challenged our views are, the more we defend them -- the more dogmatic and closed-minded we become...an intellectual form of "circle-the-wagons, we’re under attack" tribal unity. We are social animals. We have evolved to depend on our tribes, literally, for our safety and survival.

The thing is, as with most issues, few people in either tribe have looked closely at the actual evidence. On both sides, most people are just trusting their tribe’s designated experts.

Some of this material is summarized from https://bigthink.com/risk-reason-and-reality/how-tribalism-overrules-reason-and-makes-risky-times-more-dangerous and other sources.


The real story about taxes

Since taxes are starting to become newsworthy because of Trump's tax plan, it might be a good time to take a look at some facts. According to the Tax Foundation (non-partisan) in 2016,
The top 1 percent paid a greater share of individual income taxes (39.5 percent) than the bottom 90 percent combined (29.1 percent).
The top 1 percent of taxpayers paid a 27.1 percent individual income tax rate, which is more than seven times higher than taxpayers in the bottom 50 percent (3.5 percent).
The top 10 percent of income earners paid a whopping 71 percent of all federal income taxes.
Think about that the next time you hear the mantra about the rich needing to "pay their fair share".


How to spot fake news 101

People create fake news for all kinds of reasons, mostly political. Here's an example:

The following "news" article claims that Wikileaks leaked a Podesta email that contains the following:

“JB, CF, and JK PACS will be noticeably silent for the rest of the campaign. Each will receive a significant allowance from advertising budget. HRC is in the loop and has talked to all three personally. Eyes only.”

In fact if you search google on the first sentence, about 425 so-called "news sources" have picked this up and run with it. To it's credit, Snopes shows up in the search and they successfully debunk it. But you know what else shows up? A Wikileaks search!

That's right, Wikileaks has an excellent search facility. And if you plug that phrase into their search, you will come up with ..... NADA!

Wikileaks never published any such email. Apparently somebody in an effort to discredit both the GOP and Wikileaks concocted it out of thin air.

You're welcome.


How I Got Started In Programming

I've got a storied career. I went from being a draft resister hippie type near the end of the Vietnam War to being an expediter at a nuclear power plant construction company near Wall Street, then finally left New York for warmer weather in Florida where I spent a couple of years as a real estate broker and eventually landed at Merrill Lynch as a financial consultant. I stayed at Merrill for about 8 years.

It was at Merrill that I first became interested in programming. I had been graphing the technical indicators from Bob Farrell's group in New York with colored pencils and there was an older guy at the Orlando office who had a TRS-80 and printer. So I learned to program the indicator data in BASIC and print out graphs. Before long I had saved up $3500 to buy an Apple IIe and began seriously studying BASIC. Later I enrolled in an external doctoral program to get my PhD in economics, and a good part of my dissertation was spent coding FFT algorithms in Turbo Basic.

Later on I made plenty of money as a developer with Visual Basic 5 and 6. Then I got into web programming with classic ASP and learned to use javascript. To this day I still recommend that beginning programmers learn javascript as their first programming language.  Finally in 2000 I attended the Microsoft PDC in Orlando and got the first 6-CD set of .Net and I was hooked. It's been .NET and C# ever since, and as an ex Microsoft MVP for 10 years I can say that Microsoft has been very good to me.

Software development is one of the few professions where you can earn six figures with no formal degree. But it takes a certain kind of personality. Programmers are paid to think, and that requires a logical, problem-solving type of mindset - and a lot of patience and motivation to learn.

I hope some readers will get insight from this.


The Redistribution Fallacy

The recent rants of Bernie Sanders about taxing the rich to provide benefits is not really news. Barack Obama said the same thing to Joe the Plumber some years ago.

Those who talk about redistribution often act as if people are just inert objects that can be placed here and there, like pieces on a chess board, to carry out some grand

design. But human beings have their own responses to government policies, and consequently we cannot just assume that government policies will have the effect intended.

The history of the 20th century is full of examples of countries that set out to redistribute wealth and ended up redistributing poverty. The communist nations were a classic

example, but by no means the only example.

In theory, confiscating the wealth of the more successful people ought to make the rest of the society more prosperous. But when the Soviet Union confiscated the wealth of

successful farmers, food became scarce. As many people died of starvation under Stalin in the 1930s as died in Hitler's Holocaust in the 1940s.

You can only confiscate the wealth that exists at a given moment. You cannot confiscate future wealth -- and that future wealth is less likely to be produced when people see

that it is going to be confiscated. Farmers in the Soviet Union cut back on how much time and effort they invested in growing their crops, when they realized that the

government was going to take a big part of the harvest. They slaughtered and ate young farm animals that they would normally keep tending and feeding while raising them to


People in industry are not inert objects either. Moreover, unlike farmers, industrialists are not tied to the land in a particular country.

Russian aviation pioneer Igor Sikorsky could take his expertise to America and produce his planes and helicopters thousands of miles away from his native land. Financiers are

even less tied down, especially today, when vast sums of money can be dispatched electronically to any part of the world.

If confiscatory policies can produce counterproductive repercussions in a dictatorship, they are even harder to carry out in a democracy. A dictatorship can suddenly swoop

down and grab whatever it wants. But a democracy must first have public discussions and debates. Those who are targeted for confiscation can see the handwriting on the wall,

and act accordingly.

Among the most valuable assets in any nation are the knowledge, skills and productive experience that economists call "human capital." When successful people with much human

capital leave the country, either voluntarily or because of hostile governments or hostile mobs whipped up by demagogues exploiting envy, lasting damage can be done to the

economy they leave behind. This happened recently in France. Hollande decided to tax the wealthy at 75 percent. They simply left the country. He ended up repealing the


Fidel Castro's confiscatory policies drove successful Cubans to flee to Florida, often leaving much of their physical wealth behind. But poverty-stricken refugees rose to

prosperity again in Florida, while the wealth they left behind in Cuba did not prevent the people there from being poverty stricken under Castro. The lasting wealth the

refugees took with them was their human capital.

If the redistributionists were serious, what they would want to distribute is the ability to  be productive. Knowledge is one of the few things that can be distributed to

people without reducing the amount held by others.

That would better serve the interests of the poor, but it would not serve the interests of politicians who want to exercise power, and to get the votes of people who are

dependent on them.

Bernie Sanders can endlessly proclaim his slogan of "fairness," but what he is proposing is going backwards to policies that have failed repeatedly in countries around the


Yet, to many people who cannot be bothered to stop and think, redistribution sounds good.


Goal Management Done The Right Way

 I've been a proponent of goal-setting for a long time. At least 20 years ago, I read the late Zig Ziglar's work on goals, and I intuitively knew that he got it right. So I've been using his basic goal - setting strategy for a long time. 

Up until now, what with technology, the only thing missing from the equation was some sort of app specifically designed to track it all, provide reminders, and so on. And I think I've found it. I don't normally endorse products or services, but in this case I make an exception. The app is called "Lifetick" and it works on the web or in your iOS or Android phone:

Lifetick has features that closely mirror Zig Ziglar's system, making it a snap for me to decide to use it. I'm not talking about New Year's resolutions here, I don't make any because I have a goal system that works daily and is in almost constant revision.

You have Core Values that represent areas of your life, then individual Goals within those core values, and the Steps to reach them. You get reports, reminders, and much more. Exactly what I was missing and now I can access it from anywhere.

Here's their site: LifeTick


Was 2014 the Year of Propaganda?

A level of propaganda I don’t recognize, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. 2014 has been the year of utter nonsense. It just finished in fine form with a 5% US GDP growth number, just to name one example. Really, guys? 5%? Really? With all the numbers presented lately, the negative Thanksgiving sales data – minus 11% -, the so-so at best Christmas store numbers to date, shrinking durable goods in November and all? Plus 5%?

The FBI says that it was North Korea that did the Sony hack. Propaganda. Pull apart all the stuff the FBI has been saying - it doesn't compute.

Same with the ridiculous 97 percent "consensus" on global warming. Horseshit! 31,000 scientists signed the Oregon Petition stating they don't believe that manmade greenhouse gases are making the earth heat up. The satellite data shows that there hasn't been any warming in over 17 years. But hey - consensus, right?

It really doesn’t matter what I say, does it? You have enough people believing ridiculous numbers to make it worth your while. After all, that’s all that counts. It’s a democracy, isn’t it? If a majority believes something, it becomes true. If you can get more than 50% of people to believe whatever you say, that’s case closed.


Why I prefer French Wines

Upon returning from Israel where I lived and worked on Kibbutz Na'an, I chose to spend several weeks in France, both in Paris and surrounding smaller cities including the countryside in Bordeaux. What I found is that once one gets out of Paris, where Parisians are not particularly fond of Americans, the people are extremely friendly and appreciative of Americans. My aunt Ruth is French, and so my cousins all were exposed to the language at an early age. I grew into French peripherally, and speak enough to get along.

There are ten major wine growing regions in France, plus a number of smaller areas. There is commercial wine production in every region of France, except for the five regions bordering on France's north coast.

The appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC), which translates as "controlled designation of origin", is the French certification granted to certain French geographical indications for wines, cheeses, butters, and other agricultural products, all under the auspices of the government bureau Institut national des appellations d'origine, now called Institut national de l'origine et de la qualité (INAO). The INAO guarantees that all AOC products will hold to a rigorous set of clearly defined standards. The organization stresses that AOC products will be produced in a consistent and traditional manner with ingredients from specifically classified producers in designated geographical areas. The products must further be aged at least partially in the respective designated area.

You do not see these kinds of stringent controls on wine production from almost any other country. You may produce an excellent sparkling wine, but unless it comes from the Champagne region of France, you cannot call it "Champagne".

The other reason I prefer France is because of the incredible depth of art and culture that has emanated from it for centuries.

Since the beginning of the twentieth century, American writers, musicians, and artists have chosen to reside in Paris, France, for a variety of economic and artistic reasons. Beginning with Gertrude Stein in the first decade of the century and reaching its apex during the era between the two World Wars, American writers expatriated to Paris seeking to take advantage of the city's inexpensive cost of living, as well as European openness to less socially restrictive lifestyles and more experimental literature.

Active duty in World War I introduced Paris to many American writers, musicians, and artists, including Ernest Hemingway and e. e. cummings, who returned to France after the war. The following two decades found such writers as Archibald MacLeish, Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Carlos Williams, John Dos Passos, Hart Crane, Sinclair Lewis, and Henry Miller living in Paris. Artists, musicians, and writers from other countries also helped make Paris a cultural Mecca. Such writers as Ford Madox Ford, Wyndham Lewis, H. D., D. H. Lawrence, Samuel Beckett, and James Joyce; visual artists Pablo Picasso, Man Ray, Salvador Dali, and Luis Bueñuel; and music composers George Antheil and Virgil Thompson relocated to Paris during this period, influencing and helping to advance such literary movements as modernism, Vorticism, surrealism, and Dadaism.

There are certainly some excellent wines from California and other countries. But I'll stick with French wine whenever possible. You can often buy a very drinkable bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau for ten dollars. My current favorite is Margaux. if you like good wine, please try some before you die. You'll thank me.


Love and Friendship

Friendship is something that is much underrated in our society. Friendship is actually a form of love (here I'm not talking about erotic love). It's not a lesser form of love than erotic love, only a different form of love. In fact, the ancient Greeks had a word, "phileos", more or less equating to fraternal/brotherly love (friendship). Without such a form of love as friendship our societies would be unbearably dull and alienated from one another. One can love their friends as well as their "significant other", just not in the same way.

Friendships are not monogamous by necessity. Two people in a friendship don't need to exclude other people from their relationship. A friendship can best be thought of as two people side by side looking forward toward a common goal. It's an odd form of love in which people develop a relationship without relationship as a goal. Scientific achievements have come out of tight-knit friendships, as have works of literary genius, as well as victories in wars (due to the tight camaraderie and mutual trust of soldiers).

Our earliest friendships are coed, then imprecisely homoerotic, as we reach the age at which tribal peoples form cadres of hunter-warriors to protect and feed the clan, then homophobic for the sake of family life, and at last relaxed and coed again.

We often mistake infatuation, passion or limerence for love, but real love cannot exist without a firm basis in friendship. Popular culture has done us a great disservice in our understanding of romantic love. From a young age, we watch movies and read books that form the scripts of our adult relationships. But popular culture usually gets it wrong, often in the name of entertainment, and ends up confusing love with limerence, which is precisely what most of us do.

According to psychologist Robert Sternberg, who has invested some $20 million in research grants studying the subjects of love and hate, there are actually three stages to love: Passionate or romantic love (limerence), Companionate love, and finally, Committed love. Without the progression to the last two stages, a relationship based on infatuation, passion or limerence is subject to disappear very suddenly. And the last two stages must include an intimate friendship.


Six Facts About Racially Oriented Homicides by Police

Fact 1: The racial percentage of those killed by police hasn't changed. In other words, police are not more (or less) likely to shoot and kill blacks than they were 15 years ago. (In more academic terms, there is no correlation between year and race, from 1998 to 2012, selecting for whites and blacks).

Fact 2: Blacks are more likely than whites to be shot and killed by police, but probably less so than you'd suspect. 34 percent of those killed by police are African American. But put another way, 62 percent of those killed by police are white.

Fact 3: UCR data on justified police-homicides are notorious incomplete. These numbers are an undercount. But given the data we have, as reported (or not) to the DOJ by local police departments, police kill at least one person a day (426 in 2012, to be exact, 30 percent were black, 63 percent were white).
In 2012, police killed a total of 426 people. Of those:
white men: 267
black men: 128
white women: 6
black women: 4
"Asian or Pacific Islanders": 9
"American Indian or Alaskan Native": 5

Fact 4: Police-involved killings are going up. This one surprised me. Because police-involved shootings are generally correlated with overall homicides. But homicides are more or less steady right now, and down 10,000 since 1998 (14,000 in 1998, 13,000 in 2012).

Fact 5: Black officers are disproportionately more likely than white police to kill black people. But this should not come as a surprise since black officers are much more likely to work in black areas and in cities where there are more blacks. Again, without a good denominator, this doesn't mean much. 73.5 percent of those killed by black police are black. For white police the percentage is 27.6 percent.

Fact 6: Black police officers do kill white people. Black officers (about 1 in 7 of all police) kill about 27 blacks and 9.4 whites per year. White police (of whom there are many more) kill an average of 81 blacks and 200 whites each year (both for the past 15 years).

All data comes from FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports and studies by Peter Moskos, an associate professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in the Department of Law, Police Science, and Criminal Justice Administration. Moskos is a former Baltimore City police officer and Harvard and Princeton trained sociologist.


On Honesty

Honesty refers to a facet of moral character and connotes positive and virtuous attributes such as integrity, truthfulness, and straightforwardness, including straightforwardness of conduct, along with the absence of lying, cheating, theft, etc. Furthermore, honesty means being trustworthy, loyal, fair, and sincere.

Most of us want an honest relationship with our mate, or potential mate. People have a need for honesty and openness -- it gives them a sense of security and helps them become emotionally bonded to the one who meets that need.
Those with a need for honesty and openness want accurate information about their partner's thoughts, feelings, habits, likes, dislikes, personal history, daily activities and plans for the future.

If your partner does not provide honest and open communication, trust is undermined and the feelings of security can eventually be destroyed. We cannot trust the signals that are being sent and feel we have no foundation on which to build a solid relationship. Instead of adjusting, we feel off balance; instead of growing together, we feel as if we are growing apart.

Honesty and openness help build compatibility in a relationship. When you and your partner openly reveal the facts of your past, your present activities, and your plans for the future, you are able to make intelligent decisions that take each other's feelings into account. And that's how you create compatibility -- by making decisions that work well for both of you simultaneously. Trust builds and grows, and so does real love.

But aside from the practical considerations of honesty and openness, those with this need feel happy and fulfilled when their partners reveal their most private thoughts to them, and feel very frustrated when they are hidden. That reaction is evidence of an emotional need, and if that is the way you feel, include honesty and openness as one of your most important emotional needs.

Personally, I have had great difficulty with a few women I've been involved with who have been dishonest with me. Honesty is closely bound with trust. My approach is that if you want someone to trust you, you must be willing to trust them first. But you also need to be smart enough to ask a lot of questions early in the relationship, or you run this risk of getting burned and having unneccessary heartaches.
Sources: marriagebuilders.com, wikipedia, and other sources.


Why the "Tsu" social network may not be a good idea at all

People on social media are usually pretty quick to jump on the "latest new thing", often without doing any real research. That's why when invited to join "tsu", I declined. Now I feel even more strongly about my decision. Mark Traphagen has an excellent review here  http://goo.gl/SIYzT8

His main points:

"If Tsu succeeds in attracting a large number of users, the pie slices of daily royalties will get ever smaller. That may discourage people who are there in hopes of making real money, and they may give up producing new content.
Paying in proportion to views means users will likely learn quickly to produce the kind of "lowest common denominator," mindless-but-fun content that sites like BuzzFeed and Upworthy churn out like machines. It's a lot harder to attract views with more thoughtful content. Therefore I predict Tsu will quickly become what many consider the bottom feed of Facebook: silly cat memes, vapid quote graphics, and videos of people doing stupid stuff. But of course, many people like that stuff, as Facebook has proven. Not what I'm looking for out of a social network.
But if you're incentivizing engagement with content, you're also incentivizing people to form big private networks to create tons of artificial "engagement," or to pay people on sites like Fiverr to create accounts just to "engage" with your content.
The fact that no content on the network can be seen makes Tsu more of a walled garden than even Facebook."

Eli Fennell also has a good review and is even more cautionary: http://goo.gl/dxpsmg He talks about the overjustification effect:

"With their monetization model, Tsu is tangibly rewarding a previously unrewarded activity, i.e. using a social network.  This is, for some, a dream come true to those people who feel themselves to be “content creators”, “marketers”, etc… and who WANT to be rewarded for everything they do online.

For the average person, however, a social network is about BEING SOCIAL (which should, admittedly, be a truism).  They don’t care that the network itself makes money from their using it, though they may be concerned by exactly HOW it makes its money (violating privacy, targeting ads, etc"

Finally, we learn that the site may have serious security issues as it does not use SSL (Facebook, Google+ and Twitter all DO use it):

Security issues: http://goo.gl/9mFGmZ

"Take a look when you’re registering, notice how there’s no SSL? Haha you guessed it, all of their information throughout the entire site is completely unencrypted. That means all passwords, emails, user addresses, etc. are unencrypted and visible to anyone and everyone.

You don’t need to be a security expert to know this, it’s almost text book knowledge for anyone who has ever interfaced with the web on a technical level. Soooooo my fellow reddit friends, enjoy this new found information."

Thanks folks, I'm happy with Facebook and Google+, and I still have lots of friends on Twitter. I'll take a pass.


Why Traveling Sucks

Traveling, especially if you have to do it for work, sucks bigtime. For years, I traveled all over Europe and the US, to a Microsoft MVP summit each year, not to mention at least one or two other developer events, either as a guest or as a speaker.

The sign reads “Welcome to Chicago.” There’s nothing welcoming about anything though. You’re surrounded by a swarm of cranky people who were just cramped up on a long flight. They’re late for meetings or connecting flights. They’re hungry, thirsty and tired. They probably need to use the restroom, too.

The airport I’m talking about is Ohare, but it could very well be any major airport. And the last time I experienced any of that was over 2 years ago now. That was the last big trip I took. Thank god. Over the years, I’ve been to over 15 countries and had some great times as well as some low times.

I had a lot of places I wanted to visit. But I don’t care about it anymore; I’ve decided traveling sucks.

Here is why:

1. People try to rip you off

I’ve been ripped off. A lot. I would say 80 percent of the time it was while I was traveling abroad, but it happens in the States too - with taxi and limo drivers, you name it.

2. Paranoia

I’ve been lucky, but I've also heard horror stories. People who lost everything and had to scrounge their way back home. So I put systems in place to avoid that, but I can’t even keep track of my own systems!

So I end up even more paranoid.

3. You have to keep up with the Joneses

A fellow traveler I met was telling me his travel story, but I wasn’t listening. I wanted to interrupt as soon as possible to tell him my even better, more amazing travel adventure I had. And then, I wanted to one up it with another one from a country that he’d never been to.

Those are pretty much the types of conversations that ensue when you meet other travelers on the road. But no matter what you do, someone has always done something cooler, been to more countries than you have, and did it cheaper because they gamed the frequent flier mile system for 589,653 points.

It gets worse, if you open up any of your social media feeds, someone is probably on vacation sharing photos with casual captions like, “Just another day in…”

They’re pretty much rubbing in how awesome their life is and how much your life sucks.

But the joke is on them because traveling sucks!

4. Lost loves and chances

I’ve lived abroad 2 times and each of those times I’ve had little flings with some of the locals there. But they all ended on the departure date printed on my boarding pass.

One fling comes to mind. She was pretty cool. We kept in touch briefly after I left the country, but then lost touch. We connected again when social media hit the scene. All I saw was photos with her new fiancé. I couldn’t help but wonder, “what if…”

Another time in Israel, I stayed up until the wee hours of dawn talking to an Australian girl I met. She was perfect. Hot, adventurous and down to earth. Actually, I found it hard to believe that I was talking to her. But that doesn’t matter. I never saw her again.

I kept hoping I would somehow run into her during my time there. That never happened. That still didn’t keep me from daydreaming, and thinking of what I’d say to her if I ran into her again. In the middle of all that daydreaming, I was being ripped off, paranoid and trying to one up everyone I met.

How could you have a good time with all that on your mind?

5. You’re always tired

It was early. Or was it late? I don’t even know. I just arrived and I was dead tired. I wanted to get to the hotel and have some food. But I just ordered food and I didn’t even realize it.

So I paid for food that I never got to eat. I got ripped off. Again.

6. Cultural experiences are overrated

When I returned from Israel I would share my cultural experiences with people. “That’s nice they’d say…but so and so got shitfaced and kicked out of a bar the other night. And Dancing With the Stars is on tonight.”

That’s real entertainment. Cultural stuff? Not so much.

But let’s be real, all I was doing was trying to one up everyone by showing off how worldly I was.

I’ve also been on countless tours and I don’t remember a single thing about any of them. Here’s one thing I do remember about tours I’ve been on: They all end in the gift shop.

7. You end up with a bunch of useless shit

I thought I was clever. I bargained with the guy for a good deal on a bunch of pre-Columbian art. I did the same for some pirated Russian DVDs that I ended up throwing out recently. I loved going to the market and haggling the vendors on price.

I always won. Or so I thought…

The joke is on me. I ended up with so much useless shit that I don’t know what to do with it all. I sent a bunch of Russian nesting dolls and a Peruvian wool hat to soldier in Afghanistan. It was part care package, and part gag gift. Maybe he could use the nesting dolls for target practice. Maybe he gave them to some Afghan kid as a piece of forbidden history. Who knows. But I do know that I have absolutely zero use for them.

I thought I developed street-wise bargaining skills in the souvenir markets of Jerusalem, but in reality, I just got ripped off.


8. Different toilet rules

Foreign bathrooms can be confusing.  I’ve traveled to many places where signs in bathrooms read “Do Not Flush Toilet Paper.” They put a little garbage can for you to throw out your used shit tickets. The signs are clearly geared towards foreigners who mess up a lot.

I always throw toilet paper in the toilet. It’s just a habit. I can’t NOT do it. So I stuff the toilet with toilet paper and then flush it to leave a flooded mess for the next person.

Maybe I’m a bad person. But I’ve walked in upon many flooded messes myself. So apparently I’m not the only one. Some poor person has to clean that all up at the end of the day. But maybe we’re all just getting even with the places and people that rip us off.

9. Airports

I’ve never met a single person that likes airports. Yet, I’ve had to stay overnight in them a number of times.

10. You don’t find happiness

Some people will have you believe that you can simply leave everything behind and lead the life of a vagabond and you’ll be happy. No responsibilities, no worries…only freedom! Maybe it works for these people and more power to them if it does. I’ve never found real happiness and riches on the road.

In the early 1900s, Reverend Russell Conwell gave an inspirational lecture called “Acres of Diamonds.” In it, he tells the story of a farmer who sells his farm so he could travel the world looking for diamonds. He spends his entire life looking for diamonds and never finds them. Finally, after a long search, he returns home broke and exhausted.

Meanwhile, the man who purchased the farm finds a diamond in a creek on the property. It turns out, the farm was located on one of the world’s largest diamond mines.

Sometimes you struggle, you travel long and far, and you hope to find happiness and riches. Then, you return home only to find them in your backyard.

Right where you left them before you took off. If you can help it, don't travel. You will thank me later.

-- Adapted and personalized from material in a blog post by Joe Choi


Some History On Gaza

With everything that’s going on, it’s easy to forget that Gaza has a long Jewish history. It’s an odd history, however. The fact is that Gaza has never sat right with the Jewish people. Isaac, one of the three Biblical forefathers, was born somewhere between Beer Sheba and Gaza, precisely in the area that is suffering the most rocket attacks from Hamas. Both Abraham and his son Isaac had problems with the local rulers. (Genesis 20:1-3,11-12, 26:1,7)

Biblically, the area was allotted to the tribe of Judah, but the Jews never quite secured it. It’s always been an area of conflict, an arena for confrontation between Jews and hostile neighbors.

After the Biblical Exodus, during the period of the Judges, the territory fell under Philistine control. The Philistines were an Aegean people, meaning they came from the area of modern Greece. In ancient Egyptian writings, they are described as one of the “Sea Peoples” that attempted to invade Egypt and conquer the whole area.

Even if you think you’ve never heard of the Philistines, you have. The most infamous Philistines are the warrior Goliath, who was famously defeated by King David as a youth and Delilah, the biblical hottie that seduced the Israelite strongman Samson and brought about his downfall.

The Philistines exited from history in 722 BCE, when they were taken into captivity by the Assyrians.

After the Philistines disappeared, the area came under the control of various empires, e.g. the Egyptians, the Greeks and the Romans. The only common denominator was the Jews. For example, in 145 BCE Gaza came under Maccabean control (you remember the Maccabees, their victories are still celebrated during Hanukkah). This is what the Book of Maccabees (1:15) has to say about Gaza:

"Not a strange land have we conquered, and not over the possessions of strangers have we ruled, but of the inheritance of our Fathers that was in the hands of the enemy and conquered by them unlawfully. And as for us, when we had the chance, we returned to ourselves the inheritance of our Fathers."

It might seem strange today to call Gaza the “inheritance of our [Jewish] fathers”, but there it is.

After the great Jewish revolts against the Roman empire in 67 CE and again in 132 CE, with the destruction of Jewish sovereignty in the land of Israel, Gaza again played a strange role in Jewish history: it served as the main marketplace for Jewish slaves into the Roman empire. Nonetheless, the Jews returned, and by the 4th century, the Jewish community flourished. Gaza was the main port for Jewish commerce in the Holy Land. More than this, over the next few centuries, Gaza served as a center of Talmudic and Kabbalistic (Jewish mysticism) studies. But even here, things went off track. In 1665 the Kabbalist Nathan of Gaza became a key “prophet” of the false messiah, Shabbatai Tzvi. Tzvi created a messianic stir in the Jewish world until he was forcibly converted to Islam. This sent shockwaves throughout the Jewish diaspora, which took decades to recover from “the messiah’s” apostasy.

By the time the Arabs arrived in the 7th century CE/AD, Jews had been in Gaza for over 2000 years. In 1929, when the area was under British control, after the Jews of Hebron were massacred by the local Arab population, British forces evacuated the entire Jewish community of Gaza for fear of a massive pogrom.

Archaeologically speaking, several important finds have been uncovered. First, a 6th century synagogue. More dramatically, in 1965 Egyptian archaeologists discovered a mosaic image of King David playing a harp. This mosaic had once graced this 6th century synagogue. What happened to the archaeology? When it came to King David, locals promptly gouged out his face for fear that it demonstrates a connection between Jews and Gaza. When the Israel Defense Forces conquered the area during the 1967 war, Israeli archaeologists removed what was left of the mosaic and, using a photograph, restored the face. It is now on permanent display at the Israel Museum.

The Great Mosque of Gaza was originally a Crusader church. But one of the upper columns in this magnificent structure originated in an ancient synagogue: Near the top of the column a menorah was engraved. The menorah was encircled by a wreath. On the right of it was a shofar, the ram’s horn sounded on Rosh Hashanah, and on its left was a lulav, a palm branch used during the fall festival of Sukkot (Tabernacles). The inscription below, in Hebrew and Greek, reads “Hananiah, Son of Jacob”. He probably sculpted this engraving, or it was dedicated to him.

The menorah remained there for all to see from the time of the Crusaders. Recently, it was destroyed by locals.

So it seems that Gaza has always been problematic for Israel. But the Bible does state that there was one period when Judah and Israel had peace. This is the way it describes it: “So Judah and Israel lived in safety, every man under his vine and his fig tree, from Dan even to Beersheba.” Meaning, there were no ancient missiles and no war. This period of bliss was during the reign of King Solomon. According to the book of Kings (1 Kings 4:24-5), the key to the peace was the fact that Solomon “had dominion over everything west of the River, from Tiphsah all the way to Gaza.”

Reprinted with author’s permission


Dating Advice For Nerds Redux

My story is probably not that much different from anyone else's. I was married to the same woman for 23 years and later in the marriage I came to realize that she suffers from histrionic personality disorder ("Drama Queen"). She refused to get help and it became intolerable, and that is why we're divorced.

For nearly the first ten years after the divorce, I simply immersed myself in my work and didn't think much about dating. I'm a geek, a professional software developer; I have a 25 year old autistic son who lives with me at home, and so I really don't have a lot of time for the dating or bar scene.
But in the last year or so I kind of woke up and came to realize that I really would like to find a life partner. Somebody I can love and be positive with, somebody to wake up with in the morning and have coffee with, to travel with, and so on. Now if you are in a position like mine (and I know many of my friends, both men and women, are indeed) then you basically have two choices:

1) You can try to find somebody on social media
2) You can use one of the online dating sites.

I started out with the social media route and quickly found out what I was doing wrong: I was "falling in love" with women who lived many states away. One of them was even married, although I didn't find out until later. This long-distance stuff usually doesn't work at all. I do know a few people that have endured it and finally gotten together, but in general, economies of distance and cost, plus the amount of time you have to wait until you get to see your partner in person again, make it a very bad choice for finding a mate. It also consumes a lot of your precious time.

The other option, the dating sites, is actually a pretty good one. My view, having tried several, is that the "for pay" sites are no better than the "free" sites. Match.com never produced as good results for me as, say, Pof.com - which consistently produces. What you want to do is make sure that your search is restricted to "easy driving distance" - say 25 or 50 miles. If you have written a good profile with plenty of photos, and a clear description of your dating goals, you should have no difficulty finding more prospective customers than you can possible handle. In my case, I've never had any difficulty attracting women, most often they approach me. But I also send messages out to women that I think might be good candidates.

The key thing is only to use the dating site for one purpose: to meet with somebody and have a coffee. That's all it takes because if there is any kind of chemistry there you'll know in the first five minutes. Sometimes after a couple of dates you (or the other person) will conclude that this person isn't for you. Excuse yourself graciously, do not dally, and go on to someone new.

The second thing is to manage your expectations and be realistic. So many people talk about getting "swept off my feet by Prince Charming" Bulshit! If you want to find the love of your life you must actively engage and really look for him or her. They simply are not going to magically "fall into your lap". You also need to understand what love is. Most of us mistake infatuation or "limerence" or "passion" for love. It's not, and unless it is soon accompanied by the deeper stages of love, it can disappear in the blink of an eye.

Popular culture has done us a great disservice in our understanding of romantic love. From a young age, we watch movies and read books that form the scripts of our adult relationships. But popular culture usually gets it wrong, often in the name of entertainment, and ends up confusing love with limerence, which is precisely what most of us do.

I'm having great success in my dating endeavors. I'm a lot more mature now, and when something doesn't work out, I don't fret or dwell on it. Sooner or later, I'll find her. You can too.


Why Most People Are Getting the Israel / Gaza Conflict Wrong

 The problem that many people arguing about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have is that they have no idea who is who, and what are the historical forces behind the conflict.

Most people outside of the middle east think the violence in Gaza is a result of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But history shows us something different: At the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, the division of land to be agreed was that the Jews would receive Palestine from the Mediterranean Sea and including what is today Jordan, and the Arabs would receive the Arab Peninsular and what is today Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq.  This, in effect, converted the Balfour Declaration into a binding legal document. It was no longer the whim of a British Government with no rights but now incorporated into international law by the Supreme Council of the Principal Allied Powers. The Jewish people have the legal right to live and remain in every part of the territory which was part of the Mandated territory of Palestine, which is now Israel. There was never a "Palestinian arab state" - until 1967 when Yasir Arafat declared an intifada, so-called "Palestinian" arabs always considered themselves a part of Syria in accordance with the Paris accords.

The violence today has cultural and ideological underpinnings that are detached from the dispute between the two parties. The Nazis hated the Jews and established a mechanism for their destruction, not because of some religious or national controversy, but because the Jews were in fact part of a larger goal: the destruction of non-Aryan culture. The Holocaust was born out of a twisted moral code, not out of a conflict that could have been resolved through negotiation and compromise. One only needs to read about Neville Chamberlain who returned from a meeting with Hitler declaring to the British that peace was at hand.

The west fails to see Hamas's cultural war; it tends to ignore the common denominator between Hamas’s organizational and ideological fundamentalism and global Islamic fundamentalism. As they see it, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad terrorist organizations are local, with local goals and not a global branch of the network of Islamic fundamentalist terror organizations. The blindness of the west is so great that it completely ignores the Hamas Covenant, that does not hide its racist goals, in which the west, and Israel as an extension of the west, do not exist on the global map. In fact, both Hamas and the Fatah (Palestinian Authority) still have written in their charters the TOTAL DESTRUCTION OF ISRAEL.

In this current conflict Hamas demonstrates its non-rational precepts. The hundreds of millions of dollars donated by Persian gulf and western states are used, instead of to improve the population’s quality of life, to stockpile a huge arsenal of rockets, build bunkers and offensive tunnels under the Gazan-Israeli border (tunnels leading into Israeli towns, and equipped with weapons, explosives and narcotics). All the Palestinian Authority’s attempts to work together with Hamas for the benefit of the Palestinian population have failed miserably. Moreover, Hamas’s terms for ceasefire do not include any clause regarding peace negotiations or permanent settlement. This recent conflict pushed the boundaries so far that the Palestinian Authority itself does not actively blame Israel for the conflict, following Israel's acceptance of the Egyptian cease fire proposal and Hamas' refusal. The conflict actually has pushed Israel and the Palestinian Authority to the same side.

As horrific as it may sound, a cease fire now could be the biggest mistake of this conflict. Letting Israel finish off Hamas will finally let the Palestinian Authority regain control of Gaza, and negotiations for permanent peace over all the territories can commence and be fruitful. In the meantime accusations about "Israeli war crimes" and "killing women and children" will probably go on, fueled by misguided, biased, uninformed people who have never taken the time to really examine the facts.

Barry Shaw: http://goo.gl/W713F1
Wikipedia:   http://goo.gl/hi4w
David Phillips: http://goo.gl/oYoEGB
Kate Savage: http://goo.gl/AgyCc


What is Limerence?

In lay terms limerence is romantic love, crazy love, lovesick, mad love, amour fort. You see a theme in the words crazy, sick, and mad. In this condition, one's body drugs itself mightily with hormones that create a feeling of joy. The rapture is balanced with the panic and dread that it could end. And it will. Limerence has a shelf life. By most estimates, you're lucky to get 12 months. 

Dorothy Tennov, PhD, author of the groundbreaking 1979 book Love and Limerence, is the woman who originated the term.  Popular culture has done us a great disservice in our understanding of romantic love. From a young age, we watch movies and read books that form the scripts of our adult relationships. But popular culture usually gets it wrong, often in the name of entertainment, and ends up confusing love with limerence, which is precisely what most of us do.

Limerence has been described as "an involuntary interpersonal state that involves an acute longing for emotional reciprocation, obsessive-compulsive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and emotional dependence on another person." Some call limerence infatuation, lovesickness, or romantic love, while others relate it to love addiction. Some have humorously called it "affection deficit disorder".

But the bottom line is that limerence is absolutely not love. According to psychologist Robert Sternberg, who has invested some $20 million in research grants studying the subjects of love and hate, there are actually three stages to love: Passionate or romantic love (limerence), Companionate love, and finally, Committed love. Without the progression to the last two stages, a relationship based on infatuation, passion or limerence is subject to disappear very suddenly. 

So, the next time you find yourself saying "I love him" or "I love her" - think again. It might only be the very first stage, limerence.


Something Different


Reminders in Google Now

Create reminders for tasks, places to visit, events, and more. You're notified of your reminders in Google Now.
You can set reminders from the main Google Now screen on an Android or iOS device, or you can create them in a Chrome browser window.
This feature is currently available in English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, Russian, and Brazilian Portuguese.

Create a reminder

  • Touch the microphone icon Microphone icon, say “Remind me to,” and say what you want to be reminded about. Then touchSet reminder.
  • Touch the  Reminders icon.
Google Now displays the reminder as a card on the main Google Now screen. You can swipe away the card when you're finished with it.
You will receive a notification for a reminder at the top of your screen. To view or snooze the notification, swipe down from the top of the screen.

View & manage reminders

To view and manage all of your upcoming and past reminders, touch the  Reminders icon.

Time reminders

To receive a reminder at a particular time, follow these steps:
  1. Open Google Now.
  2. Touch the microphone icon Microphone icon.
  3. Say “Remind me to,” and say what you want to do and the exact or approximate time.
For example:
  • Remind me to go to band practice every Tuesday and Thursday at 6pm. (English only)
  • Remind me to buy milk this evening.
When you finish, touch Set reminder.
Alternatively, you can do the following:
  1. Touch the  Reminders icon at the bottom of the Google Now screen.
  2. Touch the  Add icon, type the reminder, and choose When.
  3. Select the date and time, and how often you want to be reminded, then touch Remind me at this time.
When the time you specified is approaching, Google Now displays the reminder as a card.

Location reminders

To remind yourself to do something at a location the next time you’re nearby, follow these steps:
  1. Open Google Now and touch the microphone icon Microphone icon.
  2. Say what you want to be reminded about and the location, and touch Set reminder.
For example:
  • Remind me to pay my utility bill when I get home.
  • Remind me to try the Belgian chocolate at Ghirardelli Square.
Alternatively, you can do the following:
  1. Touch the  Reminders icon at the bottom of the Google Now screen.
  2. Touch the  Add icon, type the reminder, and choose Where.
  3. Select your home or work address, or choose Set location and type the address.
  4. Touch Remind me at this place.

Event reminders

If you’re searching Google for certain events while signed in to your Google Account, you can have Google Now remind you about that event. When the search results are displayed, you may see Remind me on Google Now. Select that option, and you’ll see a confirmation that Google Now will remind you about this event on your phone or tablet.
To cancel the reminder, click Cancel on the knowledge card.

Delete a reminder

  1. Touch the  Reminders icon.
  2. Touch any reminder, then touch OK to delete it.
You can create reminders for tasks, places to visit, and events. Reminders are currently only available in English on newer iPhones and iPads.

Create & delete reminders

See the reminders you've created

You’ll see your reminder as a Google Now card at the time or place you asked to be reminded. If you don’t need the reminder anymore, swipe the reminder away.
To see all your upcoming and past reminders, touch the gear icon  in the top left corner of the home screen >Reminders. (If you’re in Google Now, scroll down to get back to the homepage.)

Types of reminders

You can easily create reminders in Chrome and manage them in Google Now. Setting a reminder in Chrome is currently available in English only. 
To create a reminder, follow these steps:
  1. Make sure Google Now is turned on for your Android device or an iPhone or iPad.
  2. Open Google or a new Chrome browser window, and sign in to your Google Account. For example, you can sign in to Chrome or Gmail.
  3. Type "Remind me" followed by what you want to be reminded about in the search box, such as "Remind me to buy milk this evening."
  4. Click the magnifying glass. You'll see the details you can edit for your reminder.
  5. Click Remind me on Google Now to create your reminder.
You'll be notified of your reminder in Google Now on your Android or iOS device. Select the "Android" or "iOS" categories above to learn about managing or deleting reminders in Google Now.
(Adapted from Google Help)