Tuesday, December 21, 2004

What's Good for the Goose

Orac points out the ridiculousness of telling Big Pharma they shouldn't be able to advertise to the masses, while "alternative medicine" gets to.

Never forget that alternative medicine testimonials exist largely for one purpose: To sell a product. Most of them are advertisements They are no more "unbiased" than pharmaceutical advertisements. In fact, they are worse, because at least the pharmaceutical companies have to be able to back up their claims with science and disclose potential adverse reactions in their ads. No such requirements exist for most alternative medical treatments, mainly because most of them claim to be supplements rather than medicines. The other problem with testimonials is that they don't rise even to the lowest level of medical evidence, the anecdotal report.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Infantilization of the Young

Something that really makes me nuts is how children and young adults are just being treated like they're incapable of being responsible for anything. They turn into adults with the same problems.

You know what? When I was in school, my grades were my responsibility. When I got all A's, I got no reward, other than the satisfaction of making straight A's. When I got a D in English, my mom told me I should probably do better, but she was concerned I got a B in math, because it was obvious I wasn't applying myself. I didn't get punished though. And because of the D in English, was moved out of the honors class. A month in the "regular" class, and I was working my butt off to get back in honors as soon as I could. And did my parents go to the school and beg them to move me back? Of course not. I had to realize that the consequences of my actions was that I'd be stuck in regular-level english for two years. Oh, the horror!

When I was in college, my second semester I had a low (for me) GPA. It was 2.something. I'd just met the man who became my husband, and he worked strange hours, so I found myself out with him at 3 am on a "school night". On a day I'd have an 8 am class. I didn't spend as much time on my studies, and didn't do as well as I could have. But when I finally realized what I wanted to do next -- go to grad school in biophysics -- I realized I had to buckle down. After that I got mostly A's, some B's and I was accepted at Johns Hopkins.

I realized my life and my schooling was my responsibility -- not my parents. They were there to ensure I got all the oppurtunities they could get me. For example, they fought for better programs at the school, they made sure my siblings were placed in appropriate level classes (i didn't have so much trouble with that, due to my personality). They were there to make sure the oppurtunities existed. But it was up to us kids to take what we were given and use it. No carrots, no sticks.

Here's an article about the effects this infantilization is having on the young.

Temperance, continued

Ahh, well. I ate far too much on Sunday. I celebrate the third week of advent with family and I cooked up a storm! Everyone ate too much. On the one hand, I feel guilty for stuffing everyone to excess.... but on the other hand, I adore that I made food so good that no one could help themselves.

As I sit here. With my Starbuck's coffee. Sorry Franklin. ;)

Friday, December 10, 2004

Temperance: Day 1

So far, I've managed to skip breakfast, gorge on sushi (oops), and I haven't given in to my Starbuck's addiction yet. Not too bad.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Week 1: Temperance

So, I'm going to embark on Franklin's journey to improve myself. I was inspired, watching a two hour documentary on him on Discovery or the History channel or something (they all seem interchangeable to me).

So, I'm starting week one with Temperance:

Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.

Probably a very useful virtue to work on now, during the holiday season. I'm off to a good start already -- I've lost 12 pounds in the past 3 months, including one pound lost over Thanksgiving. I can't take too much credit for it, however, since I lost that pound thanks to a little stomach illness my sister and her family gave to me. (It was only fair -- I gave them one for Thanksgiving last year!)

Since it's already Thursday, I'll keep this virtue through the end of next week. It will keep me from pigging out at the festivities for the third week of advent.

"Advent?!" you may ask. "I thought you declared yourself agnostic!" Well, yes, I am, however I come from a long line of Catholics, and I still celebrate in my secular little way. It still has meaning to me even if I'm not sure the nice little baby Jesus was really God's son or not. I still think it's a nice story, and that the "meaning of Christmas" as a time of brotherly love and family time is a valuable thing to have in your family traditions. So we put up a tree, sing moving Christmas carols, exchange gifts, and so forth. And I'm full of bubbly happiness for my fellow people, and hope we can all have a lovely time and honor each other. I send gifts to the Muslim members of my family, just as they send me gifts to celebrate the end of Ramadan. And it all goes splendidly.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Decision Making

Here's a post I found through the Carnival of the Capitalists about decision making.

It's one of my pet peeves that some managers can't seem to manage to make a list of reasons for or against something to make a decision, but instead go by their "gut". We once even had our group get sorted by personality, and it seems ALL the decision-makers were like this, while all the workers were obsessed with making sure they had a reason for their decisions. Well, it certainly helped us figure out where all the stress was coming from, and we worked on fixing that in the future. Of course, HR led us to believe that this was a perfectly acceptable situation... Ahh well..

Anyway, this is an excellent and incredibly logical way of making qualitative decisions more data-based. I intend to use it often! I love lists and numbers, and this is a great tool. It makes me feel foolish for not thinking of it myself!


From Econlog, an article about outsourcing.

I, of course, agree with Tyler.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Global Warming Model Flawed

And while looking at that new blog I linked to below (the Bidinotto blog), I found this great article about how the mathematical model that produced the current "theory" of global warming was inherently flawed.

But after testing Mann's computer program, Canadian scientists Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick proved that the program had a built-in bias. A mathematical flaw in the program tended to exaggerate any data that would produce a hockey-stick-shaped spike in temperatures, but to suppress any data that didn't. Even random test data run through the program arbitrarily generated "hockey stick" shapes!


Monday, October 25, 2004


We don't have heath insurance in the US. What we have is a bunch of people contributing money (sometimes not by choice) and a fund that pays people out based on somewhat arbitrary rules.

Tom Maguire outlines a much more reasonable plan (thanks InstaPundit):

The dirty little secret about healthcare insurance is that you have to maximize participation of young childless males either through coercion (single-payer) or obfuscation (make it free, which means take what would otherwise be salary and put it into the insurance pool). These guys don’t use or need the healthcare system except for accidents, so it’s rational for them not to sign up for insurance until they get married and have kids. Their payments offset the higher healthcare utilization of females, the old, etc.

With HSAs guys can chip in early and build a sizable nest egg tax-free for the day when they have a wife and kids, rational behavior that supports family values too. And if they have good genes and a healthy lifestyle, after a time they can take some of that money and buy a motorcycle! After the accident, the balance of HSA savings goes to their beneficiaries.

But some people think we need the nanny state to tell us what's best for us and do it all for us. I don't agree. I want to manage my own money. I don't want to pay money into a fund that goes to someone's acupunturist. I don't want a middle man.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Defining the Virtues

Here are Franklin's 13 virtues as he presents them:

  1. Temperance -- Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
  2. Silence -- Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
  3. Order -- Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
  4. Resolution -- Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
  5. Frugality -- Make no expense but to do good to other or yourself, i.e., waste nothing.
  6. Industry -- Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
  7. Sincerity -- Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
  8. Justice -- Wrong none by doing injuries or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
  9. Moderation -- Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
  10. Cleanliness -- Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation.
  11. Tanquility -- Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
  12. Chastity -- Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another's peace or reputation. (Ed -- he really wasn't good at this one!)
  13. Humility -- Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

Some of them are about right for me, but others not so much. Being agnostic, I don't think that defining Humility as imitating Jesus is entirely appropriate. Perhaps as I work on this, I'll come up with my own definitions, or even my own virtues. But this is as good a starting place as any.

Getting Started

Getting a blog started is reminding me of the part I hate about my writing job -- the difficult transition from the introduction, or the preface, to the real meat of the book with all the details you really want to provide. Often, I bridge the gap by providing some sort of overview of what you might find inside the book. Maybe a roadmap to all the knowledge you might find inside.

(Also, since I know no one will be reading this brand new blog, I sort of feel like I'm talking to myself... )

Issues you might see on this blog:

  • Politics -- I'm voting for Bush, I don't like Kerry. I'm not a Republican, nor am I a Democrat. Rarely has any politician come anywhere near to matching my views.
  • Economics -- Most people know very little about economics. I don't know much, but I find my two semesters in college put me lightyears ahead of most of my peers. Economics is important now, but it's hard to find a really decent analysis.
  • Science -- I was going to be my career, and I'm certainly still interested in new developments. Newspapers have very poor science coverage, so the web has stepped in to fill the void.
  • Education -- Homeschooling, public schools, vouchers, and so forth. I have a son, and he needs an education.
  • Typos and imperfect grammar -- I have an editor at my real job, and if I spend all my time agonizing over the perfect words to use, I'll never manage to post! I still reserve the right to make fun of others' grammar.
  • Technology -- I'm also a bit of a programmer, currently immersed in the world of XML, XSL, and HTML, while I help create my company's new documentation system.
  • Privacy -- I think people deserve privacy. I'm anonymous right now, because my particular views don't tend to be popular in my geographic area or my line of work. Sure, all citizens have freedom of speech, but if I'm afriad my blog will lose me a job or a friend, I'll just never post. So I'd rather be anonymous. It's the way I feel more comfortable online in my 15 years on the 'net and BBSes. If you have a problem with it, well, sorry.


After reading blogs for about three years now, the compulsion to create my own blog has finally overcome my shyness.

I began reading Lileks shortly after 9/11, trying to find hope, information, and comraderie online. Over time, I added more and more blogs to my list, to attempt to quell my passion for knowledge. I realized three years ago, that I didn't know as much about the world as I thought I did, and that knowledge is power. And we needed more power.

So to continue my education, here's my blog: Benjamin's Virtues.

I'm probably the only person who ever enjoyed reading Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography. I find him one of the most remarkable people who ever lived. He was a brilliant scientist and inventor, a statesman, a writer, and a champion for those who needed one. And most of all, he was a patriot in the truest sense of the word.

The name of this blog comes from Franklin's dedication to self improvement. He named 13 virtues that he would strive to master. He admits he never achieved anywhere close to perfection, but that the journey was still immeasurably valuable. The 13 virtues are: Temperance, Silence, Order, Resolution, Frugality, Industry, Sincerity, Justice, Moderation, Cleanliness, Tranquility, Chastity, and Humility.

Thanks for joining me on my journey through Franklin's Virtues.

"Genius without education is like silver in the mine."