Jocks are Smart


I’ve debated with others in the past about different types of intelligence. I’ve used the example of star athletes – a football quarterback for example – who can look at everybody on the field, judge their positions, velocities, and make a prediction such that he can lob a pass far down field with exactly the right angle and velocity so his wide receiver need only put up his hands and hold onto it.  I’ve held that this requires calculations that we can only simulate with calculus and supercomputers today. Others have held that this is “just instinct” and not really a sign of intelligence. It seemed like a fair point of disagreement given a lack of evidence to support one position or the other.

Imagine my surprise to find further data on the argument on a “History” Channel reality show that my eight-year-old son is enjoying. On the first episode of Stan Lee’s Superheros, they profile a man who is a “human calculator”. He can do any arbitrary arithmetic (including cube roots) in his head almost instantly, as if by instinct. The show adequately demonstrates the skill (using the UCSD Math Department as examiners), but then they put him into an fMRI to see what’s going on. What’s going on is that he’s doing math in the brain center that’s used for motion, not the typical brain center most people use for math.  Besides presaging the future of humanity, it effectively demonstrates just how marvelous the motion centers are at doing enormously complex mathematical computations.

Touchdown for “Jocks are Smart” (though I’m not yet claiming the field goal).

Leftover Turkey Tortilla Soup

1 large yellow onion, diced

1 oz minced Anaheim chili

1 oz minced jalapeno chilies

3 oz cooking oil

2 T sea salt

3 t garlic paste (~6 cloves)

1/2 t ground peppercorns

1 1/2 T oregano

2 T toasted cumin, ground

2 T coriander, ground

1 T paprika, ground

2 t thyme

2 lbs leftover dark meat turkey

28 oz diced tomatoes

2 c chicken stock

1 can hominy, drained

1 can black beans, drained

2 c frozen mixed vegetables (w/ corn)

1/2 t potassium salt (salt substitute)

2 cups tortilla chips, partly broken

2 c mexican-blend cheese (shredded)

  1. Coat pot with 2T cooking oil and start tomatoes cooking in pot on high.

  2. Saute onion and chilies in saute pan in 2T of cooking oil with 1 t salt until golden.

  3. Add garlic paste, pepper, oregano, 1T cumin, and paprika.  Cook for three minutes and add mixture to tomatoes.

  4. Place turkey in saute pan and cook over high heat with 2 t salt, thyme, remaining cumin, and 2T cooking oil.  Break up pieces and pan-fry on medium-high heat until browned and stringy.

  5. When tomato mixture begins to stick to bottom of pan, add chicken stock, vegetables, hominy, black beans, and salt substitute.  Bring to a boil.  Mix in turkey.  Check for salt.

  6. Stir in tortilla chips until thoroughly mixed.  Stir in cheese until evenly distributed.

  7. Add water to desired thickness.

Accessing with Firefox 34

Since Firefox 34 landed, users of Mozilla’s Firefox have been unable to access, due to the disabling of SSLv3 in Firefox 34 (it’s slightly more complicated than that but close enough).

Users will encounter an error like this:


One workaround is to switch to Chrome, but for those who like Firefox, a short journey into the configuration editor will re-enable SSLv3 and allow you to access My.Scouting.

1) Type about:config in the location bar.

2) In the search bar that comes up, enter: security.tls.version.min . Double-click on the entry that comes up and change the value to ** (zero).

3) Do the same for security.tls.version.fallback-limit .

You should now be able to access the site again. It’s not great to leave these settings like this.  Hopefully the Office updates sooner or later to support more modern ciphers (propeller-heads: ECDHE suites) or Mozilla backs down from its overly-aggressive stance (too much, too soon, good long-term idea). If you’re doing this change, try to remember to come back in a year and undo it, for better long-term security.

Crock Pot Beef Stew

Crock Pot Beef Stew

2.5 lbs chuck
1/4 cup bacon grease
fresh cracked mixed peppers
1/8 c cooking wine

1 onion
12 oz beer

1 lb bag carrots
8 medium potatoes

8oz mushrooms

2 t minced garlic
1 t thyme
1 t marjoram
1/3 t ground celery seed
1/2 t white pepper
2/3 t salt
2 c bone stock

Heat 2/3 of bacon grease in griddle (or heavy pan) on high.
Cut beef into 1" x 3/4" x 3/4" pieces.
Liberally salt and pepper the beef.
Brown beef,  4 minutes per side, no stirring.

while beef is browning:
Slice onion.
Place onion in bottom of crock pot.
Add beer.
Set crock pot for 8 hrs, low.

Slice mushrooms.

Peel and chop carrots & potatoes.
Add to crock pot.

Add browned beef to crock pot.  Deglaze griddle with cooking wine.
Dissolve drippings into wine & pour into crock pot.

Sautee mushrooms in rest of bacon grease.  Add to crock pot.

Add garlic, herbs & spices, celery, and salt to crock pot.
Cook three hours or until sizzle is heard from crock pot.  Stir.  Add
bone stock.  Allow 8-hour cycle to complete, stirring every two hours if
available (otherwise add all ingredients at beginning and it will be
almost as good).

This will yield a thick stew.  Add and heat water for soupier stew.

NH Supreme Court Runs Amok

Today’s NH Supreme Court ruling in Duncan v. NH  is great for low-income students who can still get scholarships to attend their  school of choice  (as they say, the rich always have school choice).

What’s not so great is how this case was decided.  On first analysis, it appears to be a huge abuse of power by the NH Supreme Court.

The Court found that Duncan did not have standing to argue the case as a taxpayer.    Because this is in contravention of NH Statute, as codified by the Republican Legislature and Democratic Governor in 2012, the Court also found that the Statute is unconstitutional.  Which part of the Constitution does the Court claim the statute violates?

[Art.] 74. [Judges to Give Opinions, When.] Each branch of the legislature as well as the governor and council shall have authority to require the opinions of the justices of the supreme court upon important questions of law and upon solemn occasions.

This article of the NH Constitution unambiguously requires the Court to render opinions to the Legislature (General Court), Governor, and Executive Council.  Today the court claims that it also prevents it from ever considering an argument from taxpayers, despite a long history of such decisions (many such examples are cited in the decision). By extension, the decision also claims that aggregate economic arguments may not be raised in NH Courts, since such arguments would create standing, which it claims does not exist. While the Obama administration has been arguing against taxpayer standing, such recognition is still accepted at the Federal level.

The court argues that any opinion it could render to a taxpayer would create “advisory opinions to private individuals” and as such exceeds its authority under Article 74. This argument does not pass the laugh test.

As the Court states in its decision:

“The simplest and most obvious interpretation of a constitution, if in itself sensible, is most likely to be that meant by the people in its adoption.”

The simple and sensible interpretation of Article 74 is that it is a requirement on the Courts, not a barring of the Courts to hear arguments from taxpayers.

This leaves the People with three distinct possibilities:

  • First, that the Framers of the Constitution meant what the Court claims but completely failed to articulate it and instead deeply hid the meaning in Article 74 to be discovered in 2014. This argument fails by the very quote they cite above.
  • Second, that the Court is simply not competent to interpret the Constitution.
  • Third, that the Court simply disliked the “restored” standing the 2012 bill returned to the taxpayers and chose to find a contrived path to find it unconstitutional.  Besides being an improper use of Court power to advance a political agenda, doing so would also be throwing Duncan under the bus.  One need not agree with the plaintiff to agree that he has been treated unfairly by the Court.

There are only two remedies left in NH to the People and the Legislature in the latter two cases. First is a Constitutional Amendment. It would be quite odd to have the Constitution describe the particulars of criteria for standing at the Supreme Court – that is a job properly left to Statute (as has been the case)

The second remedy is impeachment of the judges in this case (which was a unanimous decision). While the term ‘impeachment’ has drastic connotations in modern America, due to the popular notion of US Presidential impeachments being a high bar, it is, in reality, simply a tool that the Legislature has to “unappoint” judges that it finds are no longer suitable for the job. Either of the latter two possibilities are adequate criteria for such a finding.

The political feasibility of such an action will likely be determined this November.

Rights and Privileges and the EU

[background: This week the EU declared that an Internet business must “disappear” information about a person if they request it.  The ruling makes search engine and data-gathering/review services infeasible for businesses operating with a presence in the EU.]

People toss around the word “right” too casually. Narrowly constructed, a ‘right’ is only something that exists as a default state without outside interference. Imaging you’re on a desert island – you have the right to say what you want, think what you want, protect yourself from threats, hold on to your belongings, stay safe, etc. It’s when there’s a group of people who want to shut you up, take your stuff and lock you in a cage that we have to write this stuff down and call them “rights”. It gets worse if society believes that some men are justified in doing that stuff, so to settle the cognitive dissonance there requires a large structure.

But just as on that desert island there’s nobody to grow food or gather food for you, if somebody declares that you have a “right to food” then they’re selling you a line of goods (and watch your wallet) – what they really are saying is that they are going to grant you a privilege whereby they force somebody(ies) else to provide food to you. If there’s one group of people ordering another group of people to give things to other people, then it’s never a right, only a privilege. They may call it a ‘right’ to confuse you, but you don’t have to accept their newspeak.

Now then, when you do something in public/society, people notice. That creates information that just exists as objective truth – if somebody sees you walking around a park and writes down, “Tom walked across the park”, that is information about you, but you don’t own that information in any way. Now, maybe Tom was supposed to be at work, not walking across the park and he’d like for you to not have that information or tell anybody else about it. He could offer something to you to not tell anybody else about it, or even just ask you nicely, but you might find that gathering such information is more valuable to you than whatever Tom is offering, so you may or may not take Tom’s deal. But Tom might also get a group of his buddies to gang up and threaten you with some kind of harm if you tell anybody else about it. The gang has granted Tom a privilege of having that information about him ‘protected’ from disclosure.

So, this is what the EU has done – said that if you have information about somebody, and they don’t like that, then they can tell you to keep it to yourself, or the EU will beat you up (or some abstraction thereof). This is actually a pretty smart thing for the EU to do; governments thrive in low-information areas, imposing themselves to solve problems by dictate that could better be solved by all participants having access to more information. A company like Google has automated systems for gathering information and making it available to everybody, but to handle cases like this requires humans to discern what is going on, if the claims are legally valid, and then figuring out how to apply a heuristic to the data. This kind of EU ruling majorly affects Google’s cost structure, and to the extent that Google is becoming an abstract competitor to the EU by solving the information problem, the EU benefits from hurting Google in this way. Since the EU also makes Tom happy, they win in two ways, and Tom will feel more likely to reward the EU since they’ve offered him this privilege.

Most people are basically honest players and they have very little incentive to ever challenge the information that Google makes available about them. But people who do bad things – they’re going to take advantage of this ruling to try to cover their tracks (that a known pedophile is the first to use this law isn’t surprising). This is how the lowering of information will harm EU society to the largest degree – forget about Googling whether that roofer is honest or not – you’re only going to find positive results. Guess you’ll need to call a government regulator instead – Tom can’t get the gang to give up the information it has on Tom.

Comparing Costs of Enteric Fish Oil Supplements

I needed to order some more enteric-coated fish oil capsules, and the warehouse club that had been my trusty supplier discontinued all of its useful supplements, seemingly in favor of cheese platters and bagels.  I ordered some Kirkland brand from Amazon (since I had luck with the warehouse brand before) and got terrible fish burps from them, so, of to iHerb, I went, my trusty supplier, and found that the types and costs were all over the map.  For my own sanity I made a spreadsheet so I could calculate the cost per g of EPA and figured it would be worth sharing here, since there’s such a wide disparity and access to concentration value seems hard to come by.

I knew that there is some shenanigans afoot in the enteric-coating business, since the Kirkland “enteric coated” capsules gave me the fish burps, which would be impossible if the enteric coat was real, so I figured I might need to try some different brands to try some.  Note: I’ve excluded all the enteric-coated items that are not ‘molecularly distilled’ since I have a fish allergy and am not fond of consuming mercury nor PCB’s.  Nobody should be consuming those.

Finding #1: the “Maximum Strength” capsules from 21st Century Health Care are by far the best value if you don’t mind swallowing pills.  Finding #1a: they give me fish burps.  Finding #1b: “Maximum Strength” is a meaningless label at only 200mg per capsule.

Finding #2:  Natural Factors’ “Ultra Strength” is almost twice as expensive per g of EPA, but is the least expensive with an enteric-coating that works.  So, Finding #2a: no fish burps.  The concentration is really good – few capsules are required.

In sum, I’m taking the cheaper ones before bed and the more expensive ones during the day.  I did not need to progress up the scale beyond the second attempt.  Do you know of better values?  Leave a comment.

brand product count molecularly distilled? mg EPA per serving pills per serving servings per bottle EPA per pill cost cost per pill cost per serving cost per g EPA URL
Natural Factors Ultra Strength Rx-Omega-3 Factors 150 Y 647 1 150 647 $29.64 $0.20 $0.20 $0.31
Olympian Labs Inc. Enteric Coated Omega-3 Fish Oils 120 N 360 2 60 360 $17.71 $0.15 $0.30 $0.82
21st Century Health Care Alaska Wild Fish Oil 90 Y 650 3 30 650 $10.64 $0.12 $0.35 $0.55
21st Century Health Care Fish Oil 90 Y 180 1 90 180 $8.87 $0.10 $0.10 $0.55
Optimum Nutrition Enteric Coated Fish Oil 200 N 180 1 200 180 $19.31 $0.10 $0.10 $0.54
21st Century Health Care Fish Oil, Maximum Strength 90 Y 200 1 200 200 $7.09 $0.04 $0.04 $0.18