Total Pageviews

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Stroomstoring en Rondje rond de kerk

De grote regionale stroomstoring van vrijdag 27 maart heeft tot landelijke vertragingen bij de NS geleid. Hierdoor is het concept van "rondje rond de kerk" weer opnieuw opgelaaid. De term "rondje rond de kerk" is denigrerend, misleidend en had de vooropgezette bedoeling om het idee af te kunnen schieten. In 1984 stuitte dit NS plan al op grote weerstand omdat het NS personeel bang was dat het werk eentonig zou worden. Bij de invoering in 2001 ging het gelijk mis en in 2002 ging het van tafel. Bronnen: www.z24.nl/ondernemen/rondje-rond-de-kerk-weer-op-agenda-na-spoorchaos-ns-bij-stroomstoring-549929, http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rondje_om_de_kerk

Feitelijk was hier echter sprake van een "hub" concept. Hubs zijn knooppunten in een netwerk. Het is ineffectief en inefficient om vanaf elke willekeurige locatie, elke andere willekeurige locatie te willen bedienen. Schiphol is bijvoorbeeld een hub in het internationale vliegverkeer. Kleinere luchthavens vliegen naar Schiphol en vanaf Schiphol worden lange afstandsvluchten georganiseerd naar hubs in andere landen. Veel netwerken zijn gebaseerd op een "hub" concept (o.a. Internet).

Hubs hebben het voordeel dat verstoringen in het netwerk minder invloed hebben op het geheel. Echter elk voordeel heeft zijn eigen nadeel. Hubs zijn belangrijk en dus kwetsbaar. Onderstaand plaatje heb ik na wat zoeken gevonden op de microbiologie site Nature.com en via een screenshot aangepast voor mijn doeleinden:

Indien we dit schema vergelijken met het NS netwerk dan is de groene stip Utrecht, van oudsher de flessenhals (bottleneck) van het Nederlandse spoor.

Een van de oranje stippen zou bijvoorbeeld Amsterdam kunnen zijn, een overstappunt (hub) naar bestemmingen in Noord en Zuid Holland en Flevoland.

Aangezien het spoor alleen kan rijden bij beschikbaarheid van elektriciteit dienen deze netwerken idealiter op elkaar aan te sluiten.

Bij een beperkt aantal hubs zouden de overstap momenten toch nog beperkt kunnen blijven.

Soms hebben emotionele argumenten echter een reality check nodig, zoals afgelopen vrijdag.

Rationeel is er niets mis met een hub gedachte maar vaak zit de weerzin tegen ideeën op een heel ander vlak, zoals de invloed op de variabele component van de beloning. Bestuurders hebben te maken met calculerende personeelsleden. Ontkenning daarvan leidt alleen maar tot teleurstellingen.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Love and the 6-8 basic human emotions

In my recent March 27 blog I wrote that scientists distinguish 6 basic human emotions, being happiness, sadness, fear, anger, surprise and disgust. This is a commonly-held belief, first proposed by Dr Paul Ekman (see my earlier February 28 blog), which claims there are six basic emotions that are universally recognised and easily interpreted through specific facial expressions, regardless of language or culture.

This claim lingered on my mind for some time as I felt that something was missing. Suddenly I realised that love is not one of these 6 basic human emotions and that made me wonder why. Yesterday I was lucky to notice Dr. Helen Fisher in one of 5 interesting TED videos on this subject: the weird science of love (source: www.ted.com/playlists/231/the_weird_science_of_love).

Helen Fisher is a biological anthropologist who has conducted extensive research and written five books on the evolution and future of human sex, love, marriage, gender differences in the brain and how your personality style shapes who you are and who you love. Anthropologist research never found any society on earth that did not show signs of romantic love. Even animals show love. The emotion of love is deep down in our brain, way below our cognitive functions, below our emotions, and part of the core, reptilian, brain and associated with wanting, motivation, focus and with craving.

Clearly I have struck a difficult topic as Wikipedia states the following: "Emotion is difficult to define. In everyday speech, it is one's state of mind and instinctive responses, but scientific discourse has drifted to other meanings, but there is no consensus on a definition." Given this Wikipedia description of emotions it's easy to see where things went wrong. These 6 basic human emotions are in fact the 6 basic expressive human emotions. Any emotion that is in mind and does not leave a (facial) expression is not taken into account.

Robert Plutchik agreed with Ekman's biologically driven perspective but developed the "wheel of emotions", suggesting eight primary emotions grouped on a positive or negative basis: joy versus sadness; anger versus fear; trust versus distrust; and surprise versus anticipation.

In this concept, the basic emotions joy and trust result in love, with remorse as its opposite. 

It's no surprise to see submission being grouped next to love (see my earlier March 2 blog). 

It's a surprise to me to see only 3 positive and 5 negative emotions. This feels as food for thought in a next blog on emotions.

At least I'm glad to see that love is indeed a basic human emotion.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Power failures: white or black swan events ?

Friday 27 March we had a major power blackout in The Netherlands, which lasted slightly over 3 hours for me but much longer for other people. I call it major, as a large scale Dutch power blackout is very rare. Even my mother (80) had never ever experienced such a big one. Nearly the entire province of North Holland and parts of Flevoland were hit. North Holland features our national capital Amsterdam and our main airport Schiphol. Our political capital is in The Hague, South Holland, and was not hit. Allegedly, 1 million out of a total of some 7.5 million households suffered. A percentage of 13.3 for a rare event is major to me.

While I’m writing this, Internet has still not been restored. I’m using the offline version of Word to draft this new blog. At least my house is warm again as the thermostat works on electricity. My house got really cold as it has lots of windows and the inner temperature quickly adapted to the outside one despite the thermo glass. 

I have been wondering what to do during the power failure. For most of the things that came to my mind, I either needed Internet or electricity. And the Internet modem needs electricity too. I kept myself informed by using mobile Internet. However, after some 2 hours even my mobile 3G/4G Internet connection stopped working. fully agree with the person who later said: "I don't mind not having electricity but not having Internet is really cumbersome". Subsequently, even my telecom operator abandoned me. Hence even mobile phone calls had become impossible. My landline phone works on VOIP and had thus quit immediately at the start of the power outage.

I wonder what the authorities would have done in case there had actually been an emergency as all means of communication (radio, TV, phone and Internet) had gone due to lack of energy supply. Perhaps I should consider buying a classic transistor radio on batteries for such instances. I suppose that would have kept me informed.

Our daily trust in electricity is based upon the reliability of its supply which is 99.9948%. Only Germany has a higher % in Europe. On average, everyone is 27 minutes per year without power. This 5 year average even decreased to 20 minutes per year in 2014, which translates to 99.9962% (= (525,600-20)/525,600). Source: https://movares.nl/goed-jaar-betrouwbaarheid-elektriciteit/. 

My friends in Kenya, and even in South Africa, complain about power failures all the time. They happen at least weekly and can last for almost an entire day. Allegedly, there is a distinct correlation between rainfall and power outages in Kenya. One of my Kenyan friends said that Kenyan men don’t mind too much as it allows them for having an excuse not spending the night at home.

Most decisions are risk/cost-reward based while using confidence thresholds of 99.95%. This % represents a failure of 4,38 hours per year, one full day every 5.5 years, one full week every 38.5 years or one full year in every 2,000 years. Latter description is quite misleading to be honest.

Given the existing 5 year average confidence rate of 99.9948%, a power failure of one full week would occur every 373 years (=7x24x60/27). A power failure of one full week may however be catastrophic to our economy, a so called “black swan” event.

When the impact of extremely low probabilities is beyond imagination, other considerations than risk/cost-reward should be leading in the discussion. 

Friday, 27 March 2015

Why do we hate insects ?

I hate insects. I kill them by the dozens. I kill them with no remorse or second thought. I just do it whenever I see one. Okay I have said it out loud now. However, I have no clue what the reason is why I hate them. I feel that it's hard coded (i.e., genetic) though "awakened" by my parents.

"Bugs thrive on carnage. They consume, infest, destroy, live off the death and destruction of other species." Men in Black Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) describing Bugs to Agent J (Will Smith). A "Bug" is a member of a giant cockroach-like species that are at war with several other alien races.

The human reaction to insects is neither purely biological nor simply cultural. And no one reacts to insects with indifference. Insects frighten, disgust and fascinate us. Our emotional response to insects on our bodies and in our homes is not merely a modern, socially constructed phenomenon. Rather, it is a vital part of being human. Our perception of insects is deeply rooted in our species' evolutionary past. Source: Jeffrey Lockwood, The Infested Mind: Why Humans Fear, Loathe, and Love Insects.

My feeling of hatred towards insects is a response to another feeling, being fear. As William Shakespeare once said: In time we hate that which we often fear. Or Gandhi: “The enemy is fear. We think it is hate; but, it is fear.” Or this Yoda quote from Star Wars: Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.

People of all cultures, races, genders, and ages experience a set of six emotions: happiness, sadness, surprise, fear, disgust and anger (some psychologists also include trust and anticipation). From these building blocks, we construct more elaborate emotions such as disappointment (sadness plus surprise) and contempt (disgust plus anger). Of particular interest for those who recoil from insects is the feeling of horror, which has been characterised as disgust-imbued fear. Source: Jeffrey Lockwood

Some scientists argue that people are disgusted by bugs as that this behaviour evolved to help us stay away from toxic, poisonous substances. However, people might have never been exposed to harmful bugs and yet are still afraid or dislike them. This reaction seems already part of collective unconsciousness, even though kids are not naturally afraid and even act curious towards bugs. Different cultures even view different bugs differently, such as delicacies or even pets.

Our fear for insects may be explained rationally as we know that they transfer diseases or poison through their invading, biting or stinging. However, fear often has an irrational nature. For most humans, insects are largely mysterious and alien. Thus fear for the Unknown. Insectopedia by Hugh Raffles states: “We simply cannot find ourselves in these creatures. The more we look, the less we know. They are not like us. They do not respond to acts of love, mercy or remorse. It is worse than indifference. It is a deep, dead space without reciprocity, recognition or redemption.”

The evolutionary psychology answer is, to use Lockwood's phrase, "survival of the scaredest". In our history, those who quickly learned to be cautious about insects had greater evolutionary fitness and this, iterated over millennia, has got us to where we are now. This is why we are also predisposed to be afraid of snakes. But none of these fears is very useful in our modern world.

Weirdly, I couldn't find any reference of animals that fear insects. Only humans seem to fear insects. Insects are mainly food to animals (e.g., birds). Allegedly, insects were once common food to the earliest of humans. 

Perhaps the body invasion part is our deepest and darkest fear (e.g., Alien, District 9).

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Astrology, DNA, free will and Trading Places

Since our youth we have been told - by parents, teachers, friends - how special and unique we are. Nevertheless, most of us prefer being unique within a group. Amongst friends, at school and at work. Somehow being too unique does not feel safe. Rich people are eccentric, others just weirdos.

When comparing the Chinese and Western horoscope, it appears that the Western one has a cycle of 12 months (signs). The Chinese one has a main cycle of 12 years (signs, e.g. Rat) and an additional sub cycle of 5 years (i.e., wood, fire, earth, metal, and water) which gives a total cycle of 12x5= 60 years. The length of the Chinese horoscope in itself already allows for a better personality matching.

My Chinese horoscope (1960 metal Rat) already gives a good match with my personality. It gets even better when my Western (Pisces) horoscope is added. I feel it's close to an 80% match. If a generic horoscope can give an estimated 80% personality match then does that imply that I am not really unique as a human being? Or does the remaining 20% make me unique?

In April 2006, I received the predictions of a New York Feng Shui Master as my birthday gift. This guy only had my birthday, time and place. The results were astonishing. He said that the last 5 years (2001-2006) had not been smoothly, career and health wise. He also predicted that the next 5 years (2006-2011) of my marriage would not be good and that there was a tendency of getting divorced or separated. In 2010 I separated by moving to Belgium and I subsequently divorced early 2012. If someone is able to know and to predict this solely based upon my birthday, time and place then to what extent do we even have a free will left???

Recently, the FT featured an article by Julian Baggini, published in The Guardian on 19 March 2015. Source: www.theguardian.com/science/2015/mar/19/do-your-genes-determine-your-entire-life?? That article makes clear that studies on twin sisters and twin brothers - and their many examples of uncanny similarities in the behaviour of twins - have led to similar discussions on free will.

Other studies at the world-leading Minnesota Center for Twin and Family Research suggest that many of our traits are more than 50% inherited, including obedience to authority, vulnerability to stress, and risk-seeking. Researchers have even suggested that when it comes to issues such as religion and politics, our choices are much more determined by our genes than we think.

Many find this disturbing. The idea that unconscious biological forces drive our beliefs and actions would seem to pose a real threat to our free will. We like to think that we make choices on the basis of our own conscious deliberations. But isn’t all that thinking things over irrelevant if our final decision was already written in our genetic code? 

Our free will is determined - or restricted - by our personality (astrology, belief systems, ethics, moral compass) and our genetic human template ("unknown knowns"). Our environment (parents, study and work) provides the finishing touch (e.g., the remaining 20%).

There is a superb comedy (Trading Places, 1983, IMDB 7.5) about front running on orange juice futures on the Exchange that also involves a social experiment by two billionaires (Ralph Bellamy, Don Ameche) that they can turn an Afro American street hustler (Eddy Murphy) into a successful business man and - at the same time - turn a successful business man (Dan Aykroyd) into a social outcast and then reverse the entire process. The movie shows that the differences in our environments are ultimately decisive for who we turn out to be as human beings and the choices we make in life. And also that in a level playing field, genetics and personality become leading.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

The Rise and Fall of Civilisations

During a 2006 vacation in Kusadasi, Turkey, I visited the city of Ephesus. It's known as the 1st Christian city in the entire world (e.g., Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians). For three years Paul the Apostle made Ephesus his home. Walking on these ancient brick paths/roads of over 2,000 years, was a tremendous experience. The city of Ephesus was once a harbour city and important commercial centre with some 100,000 people. It played a great role in the ancient times with its strategic location. However, once the sea level decreased, the harbour got dry, the people left and the city died.

Most of the oldest and largest cities in the world that we know, are built near the sea or along major rivers. The opportunity for trade following the availability of (water) transportation (i.e., ships) is most likely to be the main reason. Our civilisation went from (tribal) hunter-gatherers to farmers, from trading (posts) to cities and ultimately to nations. For thousands of years, we have also witnessed a dramatic rise and fall of civilisations. What were the driving forces?

I think and feel that it's safe to say that wealth amongst city traders created elites. These elites were able to pay soldiers for the city's defence. City rulers emerged from the elites. The pursuit of wealth and scarcity of natural resources led to the conquering of other cities. The agglomeration of cities under one ruler led to ever increasing nations. The elites who were less interested in (military or political) power focused on areas like science. Many famous scientists from past centuries come from wealthy families as they were the only ones who could afford education.

The rise of civilisations seems more easy to explain than the fall of civilisations. Ephesus' fall was due to climate changes (i.e., decrease of sea level). Depletion of natural resources seems like another realistic explanation. Most likely there is no fall of a civilisation without the rise of another civilisation. New civilisations improve on the flaws of older civilisations. The previous civilisation is not able or willing to see its flaws, let alone repair them. The combination of building a new civilisation by learning from the flaws of an old civilisation and the unwillingness of change of an old civilisation to adapt to new circumstances might be crucial in its fall and the rise of another.

In 1937 a Dutch journalist and historian, Jan Romein, came up with the term "Wet van de remmende voorsprong" which is usually translated as Law of the handicap of a head start. I prefer a translation like Law on first mover disadvantage. This law is applicable in numerous settings and suggests that making progress in a particular area often creates circumstances in which stimuli are lacking to strive for further progress. This results in the individual or group that started out ahead eventually being overtaken by others.

Transportation and military strength have long been adequate in territorial domination (e.g., Mongols, Vikings). The limitations in its population size caused a natural restriction in its domination potential. The Roman Empire which combined knowledge, military strength, wealth and a large population was able to last either 500 years (western part) or 1,500 years, including its eastern Byzantine Empire. One could - perhaps - argue that the Roman Empire was replaced by the Holy (Christian) Empire until the early 600s when Islam split of and Christianity and Islam started competing each other.

The global distribution in knowledge, military strength, population size, and wealth is the main reason why we now lack global empires although some tried and failed (e.g., Napoleon, Hitler). The required ingredients do explain why the USA is considered being the most dominant world power.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

A new Moscow on the Hudson

Sunday evening, Boston MIT professor Andrew McAfee gave his view on the impact of robotics on American society and its labour force (http://tegenlicht.vpro.nl/). Robotics is likely to hit hard on the backbone of US - or any other - society, being its middle class. He referred to a September 2013 Oxford study which estimated that 47% of US employment is at risk due to robotics.

In Europe the solution would be rather simple as solidarity rules here. The USA is different from Europe. Very, very different. Mr McAfee is very concerned and proposed a rather European like solution: negative income tax for those without a job. I also expect that negative income tax will become as common as negative interest rates are nowadays.

I have been wondering for quite some time why American politics does not represent the people who didn't make it in US society. I suppose it's still a reminiscent of the Joseph McCarthy era (1947-1957). The American society lacks a trigger for a fundamental shift in politics. Robotics may become that trigger as most of the middle class will lose its job. American society will be fully divided in a few haves and in most have nots. A resemblance to South Africa before Mandela springs to mind.

The fundamental American lack of solidarity will cause a major boost in criminality. Perhaps the Mexican immigrants may even return home for safety and security reasons. The few haves will be forced to live in armed and gated communities. Kidnapping will become an important source of income for the many have nots. Resemblances to mid and south America spring to mind.

Finally someone will remember that the USA is a democracy with a one man, one vote system. This new movement will cause a fundamental shift in American politics. The late merger of the Democrats and Republicans did not help to maintain power. The few haves were not able to counter this long overdue process. The few haves finally paid the prize for decades of unlimited greed. Resemblances to Greece spring to mind.

Possibly one state (e.g., Florida, Texas) will want to declare independence but it lacks the required majority in the voter turnout. The number of immigrants, pensioners and other have nots is just overwhelming compared to the remaining few haves. The smart haves already left for the UK as they realised what was finally coming. The UK had already exited the European Union and welcomed its new wealthy citizens with open arms.

The fundamental shift in US politics will create a temporary vacuum in global leadership. Both China and Russia will try taking over. Many conflicts between China and Russia are to be expected as history taught both that they cannot trust each other. The massive redistribution of US wealth will also cause a fundamental shift in US priorities (e.g., military spending, its global role as police man).

For decades the USA is likely to be left sided of the remaining European Union. Ultimately, the political pendulum will steer towards a social market economy like in mainland Europe. Russia is likely to become - or rather stay - an aggressive kleptocracy. China will either implode or become like the USA once was. Given the west wards trend in the Rise and Fall of Nations, it's more likely that China will enjoy another famous dynasty.

The new Moscow will be on the Hudson.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Technological Revolution (1800-2100) and a New Renaissance (2100 onwards)

Until the age of 18 I attended a general type of education although I did drop courses that I liked less. One of these choices - mathematics - hunted me for years. Mathematics is mandatory within Economics and to be honest it makes sense. My specialisation thus started at an early age and only stopped at the age of 29 when I graduated as a Registered Accountant. Quite late perhaps but I didn't fail one class, worked fulltime, and even attended - the then still mandatory - military service.

The more we specialise, the more we lose track of The Big Picture. For many, many centuries the Renaissance man was the ideal for mankind. Leonardo da Vinci has often been described as the archetype of the Renaissance man, a man of "unquenchable curiosity" and "feverishly inventive imagination". The term "Renaissance man" is often applied to the gifted people of that age (14th through 17th century) who sought to develop their abilities in all areas of accomplishment: intellectual, artistic, social and physical. Source: Wikipedia.

The Renaissance period ended more or less by the start of the Industrial Revolution (1760-1820/40) which brought new manufacturing processes. I am convinced that historians in 1,000 years from now will say that we were in a Technological Revolution from 1760 onwards. Our Technological Revolution may well end after developing an eco system that is no longer reliant on the depletion of natural resources (e.g., food, fossil energy, metals). Let's assume that to be the year 2100.

A new Renaissance will mark the end of the Technological Revolution. I expect that ideological differences will become less important when the global scarcity of natural resources is no longer an issue. We may finally see ideological consolidation and space is likely to become the new frontier for those who continue seeking adventure, power and colonisation.

It seems to me that human history shows a continuous cycle of innovation followed by a period of consolidation. These cycles seem to shorten by an increase in speed. It's like spiralling inwards.

Take a look at this summary that I prepared for this blog:
(i) basic human breakthroughs: logical thought (millions of years ago), stone tools (2.6 million years ago), fire (1 million years ago), houses (500,000 years ago), clothing (170,000 years ago), and most important of all: language (possibly 100,000 years ago). Language was crucial in (ii) and (iii);
(ii) human evolution from hunter/gatherers to farmers: metal working (8000 BC), domestication of animals (8000 BC), vessels (8000 BC), wheel (4000 BC), fossil fuels (3000 BC), ships (3000 BC);
(iii) scientific breakthroughs: weights and measurement (4000-3000 BC), timekeeping (2000 BC), astronomy (2000-1600 BC), mathematics (1900 BC), cosmology (1500-1200 BC) and paper (100-200 BC).
(iv) scientific standstill following global development of Christianity and Islam (0 - 1400 AC).
(v) religious persecution and inquisition of a.o. scientists (1200-1400)
(vi) start of Renaissance with a renewed focus on knowledge (1400-1700).
(vii) immense wealth following globalisation of trade (e.g., Dutch East India Company, 1602-1796).
(viii) immense innovation in countries that separate religion and state (Europe/USA, 1800 onwards).
(ix) start of a New Renaissance (2100 onwards)
(x) exploration and colonisation of space (2200 onwards)

A final farewell to Leonard Nimoy (1931-2015) who is better known as Mr. Spock in Star Trek.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Zetelroof ?? Stemmenroof !!

Tijdens de 2e Kamerverkiezingen van 12 september 2012 konden we op 21 partijen stemmen. Daarvan zijn er uiteindelijk 11 in het parlement gekozen. Op het moment van het schrijven van dit blog bestaat de 2e Kamer echter uit 16 partijen. Een paar dagen geleden waren het er nog 15.

Deze 5 nimmer verkiesbare noch gekozen 2e Kamer fracties bestaan uit: Groep Kuzu/Öztürk (2 zetels, ex PvdA), Groep Bontes/van Klaveren (2 zetels, ex PVV), Klein (1 zetel, ex 50PLUS), Van Vliet (1 zetel, ex PVV) en sinds gisteren Houwers (1 zetel, ex VVD).

Grondwettelijk gezien stemmen we nog altijd op personen. Alleen artikel 8 van de Grondwet is van toepassing op politieke partijen (het recht van vereniging). In de praktijk stemmen we echter primair op politieke partijen en secundair slechts op personen (o.a. lijsttrekker, voorkeurstemmen).

De kiesdeler in 2012 bedroeg 62.829. Dit getal wordt bepaald door het aantal geldige stemmen bij opkomst te delen door het aantal zetels in het parlement: 9.424.235 : 150 = 62.829. De 5 nooit verkiesbare en nooit gekozen fracties, bestaande uit 7 zetels, vertegenwoordigen daarmee dus 7 x 62.829 stemmers = 439.803 stemmen.

Er is dus geen sprake van een bescheiden zetelroof maar van een buitensporige stemmenroof. Deze 7 personen vertegenwoordigen minimaal 7 stemmen maar 100% zeker geen 439.803 stemmen !
Het verbaast me dat de "grote" politieke partijen de handen niet in elkaar slaan om de grondwet te veranderen. Wat eerst slechts een PVV probleem leek te zijn, lijkt nu vrijwel elke politieke partij te raken. Ook het CDA kende vroeger zijn dissidenten.

Het is tijd voor een totaal andere aanpak. Niet langer stemmen op personen maar op standpunten. Deze omwenteling is misschien net iets te groot voor de meesten, en daarom zou stemmen op (standpunten in) partij programma's een tussenoplossing kunnen zijn.

Elke partij (lees: partijprogramma) wordt door minimaal 1 persoon (lijsttrekker) vertegenwoordigd. Het aantal stemmen op het partijprogramma is leidend bij de machtsverdeling in het parlement. Niet de aan- of afwezigheid van zetelvullende personen. Zetel- of stemmenroof is niet langer mogelijk.

Er zal geen sprake meer zijn van een 2e Kamer van 150 zetels maar van een vergaderruimte met circa 20 zetels (heden: 16). Per vergaderonderwerp wordt een partij vertegenwoordigd door een persoon inclusief het aantal stemmers van de afgelopen verkiezingen tijdens de besluitvorming.

Elke politieke partij werkt als een bedrijf waarbij de lijsttrekker de partij naar de stemmers vertegenwoordigt. Hij/zij wordt omringd door een management team dat haar/hem ondersteunt op functionele gebieden zoals buitenland, EU, financiën, justitie, onderwijs, etc. Elke partij brengt minimaal jaarlijks verslag uit van haar activiteiten, alsmede een weergaven van haar stemgedrag versus haar partij standpunten, en ook een gedetailleerd kasstroomoverzicht dat inzicht geeft in de inkomsten (inclusief de achtergrond van de geldschieters) en de uitgaven van de partij. Een accountantsrapport gaat in op de doelmatigheid van de uitgaven en de herkomst van de inkomsten.

De kiezer heeft ook recht op transparantie. Niet alleen op beloftes.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Blurred lines - the origin of languages

In 1977 there was a TV series called Roots and based upon the 1976 bestselling book by Alex Haley: Roots, The Saga of an American Family. It's about an Afro American who wants to find out about his roots. Ultimately, he visits an African tribe and listens to a song (and dance). That song lasts for many hours as it includes the heritage of all tribe members from centuries ago. Suddenly he hears them singing the name of his great grand father, Kunta Kinte. It's a very emotional moment for him.

There is a lot of literature about the use of music as an important tool in learning new languages. I feel that music is also the linking pin in the evolutional development from (human) communication towards language. Finding evidence for that link during my research was hard. The only support for that link is a 2005 book by Stephen Mithen, called "The Singing Neanderthals: the Origins of Music, Language, Mind and Body." Stephen Mithen: "While there has been considerable discussion and debate within palaeoanthropology regarding the origin and evolution of language and art, that of music and dance have been neglected. This is as surprising as it is unfortunate as these behaviours are universal amongst human communities today and in the historically documented past."

The origin of language in the human species has been the topic of scholarly discussions for several centuries. In spite of this, there is no consensus on the ultimate origin or age of human language. One problem makes the topic difficult to study: the lack of direct evidence. Consequently, scholars wishing to study the origins of language must draw inferences from other kinds of evidence such as the fossil record, archaeological evidence, contemporary language diversity, studies of language acquisition, and comparisons between human language and systems of communication existing among other animals (particularly other primates). Many argue that the origins of language probably relate closely to the origins of modern human behaviour, but there is little agreement about the implications and directionality of this connection. Source: Wikipedia - Origin of language

This shortage of empirical evidence has led many scholars to regard the entire topic as unsuitable for serious study. In 1866, the Linguistic Society of Paris banned any existing or future debates on the subject, a prohibition which remained influential across much of the western world until late in the twentieth century. Today, there are numerous hypotheses about how, why, when, and where language might have emerged. There is scarcely more agreement today than a hundred years ago, when Charles Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection provoked a rash of armchair speculations on the topic. Since the early 1990s, however, a growing number of professional linguists, archaeologists, psychologists, anthropologists, and others have attempted to address with new methods what some consider "the hardest problem in science." Source: Wikipedia (see above)

Oral forms like ballads and epics exist in every culture, originating long before the advent of written language. Oral traditions depend on human memory for their preservation. If a tradition is to survive, it must be stored in one person’s memory and be passed on to another person who is also capable of storing and retelling it. All this must occur over many generations. Oral traditions must, therefore, have developed forms of organisation and strategies to decrease the changes that human memory imposes on the more casual transmission of verbal material. What are these strategies? Tales that last for many generations tend to describe concrete actions rather than abstract concepts. They use powerful visual images. They are sung or chanted. And they employ patterns of sound: alliteration, assonance, repetition and, most of all, rhyme. Source: www.psychologytoday.com.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Belief systems - Money - Ayn Rand's Rational Egoism

In my view, every human being acts in his/her own self interest. In each situation we - either consciously or subconsciously - consider the "What's in it for me?" question. Even "doing good" towards others is self interest as it may imply an "I owe you", a future return favour, or scoring points in the eyes of our God. Let's call this idea "Rational Egoism" (Ayn Rand, 1905-1982).

Once we start believing into something bigger, like Money, then we lose our rational self interest. Greed is irrational self interest rather than extreme rational interest. Irrational because we no longer think about the consequences of our actions. The love for money has all the characteristics of love: forgiving, finding excuses and suppressing conflicting rational thoughts.

To some extent I am fascinated by Ayn Rand. I also mentioned her in one of my earlier blogs (http://leonoudejans.blogspot.nl/2015/02/cybertopia-seasteading-and-ayn-rand.html). I wasn't able to include her in my recent blog about Money as a belief system. Yet I felt that her opinions do matter as they are often used - better: misused - as a justification for greed. It's easy to see why her opinions are often misused.

Russian Jewish born Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum (1905-1982) outlined her philosophic ideas for future society - which she referred to as Objectivism - mostly in a novel called Atlas Shrugged. Ayn Rand advocated reason as the only means of acquiring knowledge and rejected faith and religion. She supported rational and ethical egoism, and rejected altruism. In politics, she condemned the initiation of force as immoral and opposed collectivism and statism as well as anarchism, instead supporting laissez-faire capitalism, which she defined as the system based on recognising individual rights (source: Wikipedia).

I am convinced that her choice of words - egoism - is the reason for misinterpretation of her opinions. Clearly she refers to self-interest. Ayn Rand defines rational egoism (also called rational selfishness) as the principle that an action is rational if and only if it maximises one's self-interest. Ethical egoism is the normative ethical position that one ought to do what is in one's own self-interest. Lastly, psychological egoism is the view that humans are always motivated by self-interest, even in what seem to be acts of altruism.

The adjective rational - in rational egoism - is clearly her restriction towards the word egoism (i.e. rational egoism versus egoism). People misusing her opinions view "rational egoism" as the opposite of "emotional amoral egoism" (http://psychology.wikia.com/wiki/Emotional_amoral_egoism). The Ayn Rand quotes I have listed below make her look very different from the person whom Republicans love and Democrats love to hate. I think I would have loved her.

Relevant Ayn Rand quotes (source: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/a/ayn_rand.html):
- Money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver.
- Upper classes are a nation's past; the middle class is its future.
- Money is the barometer of a society's virtue.
- Money demands that you sell, not your weakness to men's stupidity, but your talent to their reason.
- Run for your life from any man who tells you that money is evil. That sentence is the leper's bell of an approaching looter.
- Wealth is the product of man's capacity to think.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Communication, language, speech and the Google Translate for Animals app

While sitting in the garden and enjoying the Spring sun, I can hear the animals around me. They may be able to hear us too. Would they assume that the human sounds are just random sounds without any meaning? Obviously I'm joking now as I said in one of my earlier blogs that having a mind and thoughts is exclusive to humans. Speech is within the brain, not the mind. Animals have brains too.

To be honest I was amazed by the lack of information on Wikipedia (human-animal communication) and disappointed by the lack of progress on this topic. I did find a funny Google promotion video for a Google Translate for Animals app on YouTube: www.youtube.com/watch?v=3I24bSteJpw.

So why do we assume that animals do not speak? If we assume they do then why don't we do any effort to understand them? If we do effort then why is that effort so minimal? Why are we not interested in what they would like to share with us? Why are we so interested in researching "dead" objects rather than "living" objects?

Fear might be the answer.

Fear for becoming vegetarians when we would be able to understand animal speech. If plants could communicate to us then we might even starve to death. Fear for being less special in Earth's nature than we assume to be. If animals were to have a language then what separates humans from animals? Just the invisible mind and its thoughts? Fear for animals claiming political rights? As far as I'm aware of, only The Netherlands has a political party that is solely for animal rights.

Some domestic animals (e.g., cats and dogs) succeed in communicating their feelings and needs, both to each other and to humans. To what extent is their communication like, or unlike, human communication with language?

Using sign "language" to communicate is typical for animals that have arms. Animals with 2 arms are called primates a.k.a. apes or monkeys. Nearly all animals use 4 limbs to move. Only humans, gibbons and large birds walk by raising one foot at the time. Interestingly, some other animals that used to have "arms" were the bipedal dinosaurs (e.g., Raptors, T-Rex).

Language is something entirely different from communication, signs or speech. All our languages are taught by parents and then for many years in schools. Languages use concepts / dimensions like time (i.e., past, present and future) and space (e.g., length, width, height, distance, place). Such concepts require a mind rather than a brain. Communication, signs, speech is a function that is most likely genetically stored in brains while languages have been developed in and by human minds.

In language teaching and learning, no one would deny that learning a language involves developing a knowledge (even if it is only subconscious) of pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary. Defining ‘language’, however, is by no means simple – which is why it is avoided in many textbooks and dictionaries on the subject.

It seems clear that we are unlikely to ever fully communicate with other species the way we do with each other.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Search for Near Earth Objects (e.g., asteroids)

In the 1998 movie Armageddon (www.imdb.com/title/tt0120591/combined) Bruce Willis saves our planet by taking a space craft, landing on a massive meteor, drilling a hole, plugging a nuclear bomb into it, and detonating it. Though such a movie may seem farfetched, NASA is actually working on such future robotic and crewed missions. A substantial number of scientists claim that the dinosaurs became extinct from exactly such a collision (see #8 below).

National Geographic made a list of 10 very serious asteroid hits on planet Earth:
1. Vredefort Crater, Free State, South Africa. Estimated 2 billion years ago. Specs: estimated radius of 190 kilometres, making it the world's largest known impact structure. UNESCO World Heritage.
2. Sudbury Basin, Ontario, Canada. Est. 1.8 billion years ago. Specs: est. diameter of 130 km.
3. Acraman Crater, South Australia. Est. 580 million years ago. Specs: estimated diameter of 90 km.
4. Woodleigh Crater, Western Australia. Est. 364 million years ago. Specs: not exposed at the surface. Reports on its diameter vary from 40 to 120 km.
5. Manicouagan Crater, Quebec, Canada. Est. 215 million years ago. Specs: one of the largest and best-preserved craters on Earth, with an estimated diameter of 100 kilometres.
6. Morokweng Crater, South Africa. Est. 145 million years ago. Specs: Located near the Kalahari Desert in South Africa, this crater contained the fossilised remains of the meteorite that created it.
7. Kara Crater, Russia. Est. 70.3 million years ago. Specs: now greatly eroded. Some have claimed that the impact structure actually consists of two adjacent craters.
8. Chicxulub Crater, Yucatán, Mexico. Est. 65 million years ago. Specs: many scientists believe that the meteorite that left this crater caused or contributed to the extinction of the dinosaurs. Estimates of its actual diameter range from 170 km to 300 km, which if proved right could mean it's the biggest.
9. Popigai Crater, Siberia, Russia. Est. 35.7 million years ago. Specs: Russian scientists claim this crater contains trillions of carats of diamonds, making it one of the world's largest diamond deposits.
10. Chesapeake Bay Crater, Virginia, USA. Est. 35 million years ago. Specs: discovered in the early 1980s, located some 200 km from Washington, D.C. Estimates suggest this crater is 85 km wide.

The human response time for a hit is either decades or none at all. Decades for known Near Earth Objects (NEOs) and none for unknown objects (e.g., 2013 Russia). So far some 12,000 NEOs have been discovered out of a total population thought to number in the millions. The Earth’s atmosphere protects us from most NEOs smaller than a modest office building (40 m diameter). Estimated frequency: small 5-10 per year. From this size up to about 1 km diameter, an impacting NEO can do tremendous damage on a local scale (e.g., 2013 Russia). Estimated frequency: once every 5 years. Above a diameter of some 2 km, an impact will produce severe environmental damage on a global scale. Estimated frequency: 1-2 per million years. As of the end of 2011, astronomers had discovered more than 90% of the larger Near Earth Asteroids (diameter greater than 1 km). None of the known asteroids is a threat, but we have no way of predicting the next impact from an unknown object. 

The count of known NEAs can be obtained daily from the NASA Program Office website at http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/. On 2 April 2014 NASA announced that recent observations have removed NEO 2007 VK184 (diameter 130 meter) from its asteroid impact hazard list, which was known to pose the most significant risk of Earth impact over the next 100 years.

So, in short it's either CARPE DIEM or MEMENTO MORI. I prefer Carpe Diem.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Belief systems - Money

For most people, money is quite essential in daily life. Yet during my research I didn't notice anyone regarding it to be a part of "belief systems". You wonder why given the following expressions:
- "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil." (New Testament, 1 Timothy 6:10a)
- Greed is one of the Christian capital sins (i.e., envy, gluttony, greed, lust, pride, sloth, wrath).

There is nothing wrong with money. It has been an excellent invention for prosperity. Before money was invented, people used the barter system which involves an exchange of goods or services as a means of payment. In fact the barter system still exist nowadays, sometimes without even realising it.

Coins used to be made of precious metals (e.g., gold, silver) and the value of the coin was more or less equal to the value of the metal. That is why people believed in coins as a payment method. Coins are also no longer made of precious metals since the underlying value of the metal was exceeding the value of the coin. It became more interesting melting the coins than using them. The introduction of paper bank notes was not easy. The solution was to include a written promise on the paper bank note that people could always exchange the paper bank note for its value in gold. Consequently, central banks stored huge amounts of gold in vaults. In most (if not all) countries the written promise on the paper bank notes has been deleted at present.

Nowadays the use of paper bank notes and metal coins has been largely replaced by digital or electronic money. That fundamental change required a fundamental belief in financial institutions. The guarantee of a substantial part of our savings at banks (NL: 100,000 euros) by governments (e.g., Europe and USA) has everything to do with the necessity of people believing in banks and in electronic money. People who lack that belief typically store cash at home "under a mattress".

While most people believe in money as just a tool for doing payments, some people believe in money as a goal in life. These people develop a love for money. Greed is the excessive love for money:
Source: www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evil-deeds/201110/is-greed-ever-good-psychological-and-spiritual-perspectives-selfishness

Monday, 16 March 2015

Belief systems - the Truth

Remember the 1977 movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind by Steven Spielberg? The main character, Richard Dreyfuss, got obsessed by a mountain / volcano although he could not understand why. He strongly felt - or "knew" - that finding his way to the mountain would give him the answers he was looking for. To a limited extent I feel something similar about Mount Kilimanjaro.

Many people are looking for the Truth during their life. I just noticed a blog called The Absolute Truth (http://absolutetruth613.blogspot.com/). It claims to be "a blog for those who are looking for the absolute truth about this world in order to survive and thrive. We live in a world of lies and deceit but can greatly improve our lives if we start living the truth." The claim that "we live in a world of lies and deceit" is an interesting one. Given its prominence - as a subtitle - it must be the fundamental hypothesis for that entire blog. The writer strongly believes that the hypothesis is true. Again, the Truth as a belief system.

My quest is for knowledge, understanding and wisdom. Not for the Truth. I do not believe that there is someone or something that holds the Truth on Earth. The (absolute) Truth also implies that it cannot be argued by anyone. During the past few years, I have learned a hard lesson that even facts can become fiction when deliberately presented in a certain way. I have learned my lesson of life: there is no such thing as the Truth. The search for the (absolute) Truth and self-deception seem to be closely related.

After ample consideration and a lot of struggling in my mind, I was finally able to put most of the pieces together and I made the following diagram which I am proud to share with you:

The following quote by John F. Kennedy was quite helpful in arranging my thoughts:
“The great enemy of truth is very often not the lie - deliberate, contrived and dishonest - but the myth - persistent, persuasive and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the cliches of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought." John F. Kennedy at Yale University, 11 June 1962.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Apple CarPlay (2015) - just a dashboard UI or a Trojan horse for Apple Car (2020) ?

Communication, entertainment and transportation are essential functions in human life (also see my earlier blog: http://leonoudejans.blogspot.nl/2015/02/google-our-new-digital-butler.html). Since 2012 Google has openly entered the Automotive market with its Google (driverless) Car (also see my earlier blog: http://leonoudejans.blogspot.nl/2015/01/google-future-apple-in-automotive.html).

There has been a lot of industry rumour (www.autoblog.com/2015/02/20/apple-car-2020/) since my earlier blogs that Apple is working on an electric car as they are - allegedly - hiring people from Tesla and a car battery maker. Of course everything about this so called Project Titan is entirely a rumour at this point and Apple isn't confirming anything. As usual as Apple thrives on such rumours.

Interestingly, Apple announced its in-dash software product CarPlay early March 2015. "Now every major car brand has committed to delivering CarPlay," Apple CEO Tim Cook said, noting that 40 models will ship with the software this year. Unlike the almost invariably out-of-date software of most in-car entertainment systems, Apple's CarPlay - and Android Auto, Google's competitor - are designed in-house by mobile tech experts. Allowing Apple and Google to design our dashboard software promises a smoother, more familiar experience that's as familiar as your smartphone's screen. Cook didn't go into specifics about which manufacturers have signed on for Apple CarPlay, but it sounds like the software will be nearly ubiquitous in new cars. We already know that Ferrari and Mercedes Benz feature the software, as does the soon to be released Volvo XC90. Source: http://www.roadandtrack.com/new-cars/car-technology/news/a25219/tim-cook-apple-carplay-coming-to-every-major-car-brand/

The article above suggests that Apple CarPlay (2015) is merely a modern, smooth User Interface (UI) that will help selling cars to customers. Given the industry rumour that Apple is working on an electric car, Apple CarPlay is also likely to be a Trojan horse in the Automotive industry. Like Apple TV (an interface for future TV screens?), Apple Pay (banking) and Apple Watch (interface for healthcare?). Also it may make up for some lost time in comparison with the Google Car (2012).

While writing this blog I noticed a curious March 10 hit in my searches: Apple's shareholders really want Tim Cook to buy Tesla (http://www.theverge.com/2015/3/10/8185517/apple-shareholder-meeting-tesla-acquisition-elon-musk-carplay). Based on the article Mr Cook did his very best to dodge the questions on Apple CarPlay, Apple Car and Tesla with flair and humour. Unlike Google or Microsoft, Apple is not known for huge acquisitions, or big names, or for acquisitions outside its primary activities. Apple's only huge purchase (NeXT, 1997) was to bring back Steve Jobs.
Source: http://comparisons.financesonline.com/comparison-of-top-tech-company-acquisitions/

Apple once reshaped telecommunication through a shift in dominance and margins from telecom operators to device manufacturers. I suppose Apple intends to reshape Automotive from low margin, high volume, nice-to-have lookalikes into excessive margin, medium volume, must-have lifestyle products. For some (future) user experience please refer to: http://blog.caranddriver.com/dispatch-from-the-future-driving-the-2020-apple-car/
  
Why drive a car when you can drive an Apple?








Saturday, 14 March 2015

Belief systems (part 2) - the ultimate human response

Since my blog of March 12 (http://leonoudejans.blogspot.nl/2015/03/belief-systems-known-unknowns.html), I have been struggling with the idea of using the word feelings as an alternative for beliefs. After ample thought - and some internet research during my writer's block - I realised that there is much more to the subject of feelings than I had ever imagined.

In general, when we refer to feelings we actually either mean (bodily) sensations or thoughts. Sensations are feelings that express bodily states like danger, hunger, pain, sleep or thirst. Thoughts include feelings like fear, hate, love and revenge. Sensations and thoughts are processed in different segments of our body. Sensations are dealt with by our brain. Thoughts are dealt with by our mind. To stress my point: animals have a brain but not a mind.

A further reclassification would then lead to the following:
- brain = the knowns: facts (known knowns) and intuition (unknown knowns)
- mind = the unknowns: beliefs (known unknowns) and imagination (unknown unknowns)

After some consideration, our thoughts may lead to convictions (opinions). Convictions may lead to beliefs. Beliefs may lead to lunacy or nonsense. I prefer the word non-sense however as it implies that such people are no longer connected to reality (their senses). Extremism is thus extreme belief that turned into non-sense.

I realised that there is another big difference between sensations in the brain and thoughts in the mind. It has to do with the ultimate human response to feelings:
- brain (facts and intuition): sensations like danger, hunger/thirst or poverty ==> to kill for
- mind (beliefs and imagination): sacrifice yourself for the greater good =====> to die for

Thus the essential element of any belief system is the willingness to die for your belief. After some consideration I concluded that any cause "to die for" has three different labels: wars (collective), martyrs (individual), and suicides (collective and individual).

Let's now revisit each of the belief systems from my previous blog:
1. money: suicides (e.g., depression)
2. philosophy: martyrs (e.g., Socrates) and (assisted) suicides (e.g., terminally ill)
3. politics: wars, martyrs, mass and individual suicides (e.g., Japanese seppuku and kamikaze)
4. religion: wars, martyrs, mass and individual suicides (e.g., Jonestown, suicide bombers)
5. science: martyrs (e.g., Madame Curie)
6. the truth: suicides (e.g., depression)

Sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martyr, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass_suicide, http://www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/bday/1107.html?pagewanted=all (science martyrs), www.psychologytoday.com/blog/happiness-in-world/201004/the-six-reasons-people-attempt-suicide

Some interesting quotes:
“There are causes worth dying for, but none worth killing for.” Albert Camus
“Politics, like religion, hold up the torches of martyrdom to the reformers of error.” Thomas Jefferson

Friday, 13 March 2015

When the music stops playing........... (movie Margin Call, 2011)

In the 60's my parents lived quite close to their parents. My father's parents lived in the same village. My mother's parents lived a few kilometres further in another village. I saw my grandparents quite regularly as I suppose there was nothing much else to do on a Sunday besides visiting relatives.

Nowadays many families are spread over the country or even the globe. Reasons for that are often study or work. The grand parents stay behind in their village. Visiting grand parents, parents, or relatives competes with many other priorities. The busy schedule of kids is often leading.

The Roman Catholic Pope Francis made some remarks this week about a big contemporary problem, the neglect of older people by their children and younger relatives. Failing to look after old folk was not just a bad habit, he told an audience of 20,000 people in Rome, it was a mortal transgression: in other words the sort of sin that can consign you to hell, eternal punishment, if you fail to repent for it before you die. The catechism of the Catholic church doesn't offer a precise list of mortal sins, but it does approvingly recall a dialogue between Jesus and a young man in the New Testament which features a broadly accurate summary of the ten commandments: do not kill, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not lie or cheat, and "honour your father and mother". Source: The Economist.

Many societies in nature are built on a tribal system or a herd if we think in animal terms. The human tribal system is torn apart in more and more regions. We must follow the money (e.g., employment) if we want to maintain our current and abundant standards of living. In essence: more is better. The flip side of that coin is that families, villages, cities and countries have become loaded - if not overloaded - with debt to finance houses, theatres, swimming pools and glamorous city halls.

In essence, lots of our private and public wealth is based on debt. Debt becomes a heavy burden when the guests are leaving (increasing interest rates) and - most of all - when the music stops playing (e.g., unemployment, lack of trust in repaying). The Dutch nation ranks #13 worldwide in government debt per person, being $37,233 in 2014. Japan ranks #1 as every resident of Japan owes almost $100,000 to its country's creditors. The USA ranks #3 with $58,604, Greece ranks #12 with $38,444 and Germany ranks #14 with $35,881. Source: http://www.bloomberg.com/visual-data/best-and-worst//most-government-debt-per-person-countries

Companies, cities and countries can run deficits as long as creditors are willing to lend them money. Families know better. Without collateral (e.g., mortgages) only relatives are the lenders of last resort.

We believe that we are able to repay our debts in the future, else we would never even have used debt to finance our purchases. Money is one of the core elements in our belief system.

It takes quite a serious life's lesson to understand that actually "less is more". Pope Francis is teaching us another one. Each day the marketeers give us the philosophical message that "more is better". We believe that. Until the music stops playing.

For Greece (#12) the music has stopped playing. Present and future Greek generations will need to learn that actually "less is more". It should be a lesson to all of us.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Belief systems - known unknowns

People believe in certain things like money, philosophy, politics, religion, science and the truth. This list may not even be exhaustive.  It took me a while to collect these 6 items as this topic - belief systems - is rather controversial. Each individual items has an extreme version in real life as any belief is subject to extremism.

Money was not the 1st belief that came to my mind. Actually the resulting extremism made me realise that money is a belief too. The absolute belief in money is illustrated by the "Greed is good" statement by Gordon Gekko in the movie Wall Street. Since that movie things went even worse.

Philosophy was a hard one too. Some people also included this one in belief systems but it took me a while before it fully sank in. For many centuries people believed that other people were inferior considering their faith, skin colour or sex (e.g., anti-semitism, racism, sexism).

Dictatorships are a rather clear example of political extremism. For many people, politics is actually the very first item that comes to mind when contemplating about belief systems.

Unfortunately, religious extremism is rather common nowadays with organisations like ISIL / ISIS.

Including science in belief systems is quite controversial. I am not talking about scientific facts. I am talking about the god-like belief that any direction in science always is for the greater good of mankind. Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer ("father of the atomic bomb") symbolises for many the foolishness of scientists thinking they could control how others would use their research.

Truth was the last one to come on my list. I didn't even see that one coming to my list although my divorce should have taught me better. Some people strongly believe in their version of the truth. In such a discussion facts suddenly become opinions. Call it self-deception: “There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn't true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.” (Kierkegaard).

In the middle of this - dice shaped - object are terms like democracy, facts and knowledge.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb introduced some important concepts in his book Fooled By Randomness (2001) like known knowns, known unknowns, unknown knowns, unknown unknowns. In his 2007 book The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, the core message is that unknown unknowns are responsible for the greatest societal change. Source: Wikipedia. Also see my earlier blog named "The Environment - probability x impact. (http://leonoudejans.blogspot.nl/2015/02/the-environment-probability-x-impact.html)

Mr. Taleb's classification is quite helpful for coming to the following summary:
- known knowns: we know that we know - facts
- known unknowns: we know that we do not know - beliefs
- unknown knowns: we do not know that we know - intuition
- unknown unknowns: we do not know that we do not know - imagination.

We know that we do not know but we believe in it anyway. The classification by Mr Taleb makes very clear how much more advanced human intelligence is - and will always be - compared to artificial intelligence. I sincerely doubt that artificial intelligence will ever be able to reach levels 2 to 4: beliefs, intuition, and imagination.

“I believe in intuitions and inspirations...I sometimes FEEL that I am right. I do not KNOW that I am.” Albert Einstein

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

The "big-bang" versus the "growing earth, growing universe" theory - part 3

One of my Kenyan friends is into the Lord and not a tiny little bit. Her response to my draft blogs on the "big bang" theory versus the "growing earth, growing universe" theory was full of Bible references. I told her that I somehow see a conversion between the Bible (Genesis 1:1 - in the beginning there was nothing except God) and both scientific theories which also assume that there may have been nothing when the universe originated. Such a conversion is somehow funny as religion and science have not been each other's best friend for many centuries.

I am a firm believer that government, religion and science should be separate. Religion provides a moral compass to humanity. Science allows us to use our talents in the interests of current and future humanity. Government is there to provide basic human values such as equality, freedom, justice, and safety/security. Government, religion and science also provide checks & balances towards each other.

Control of one over the others (e.g., religion over science and government OR government over science and religion OR science over religion and government) has never brought - and will never bring - anything good. Yet there will always be (human inflicted) pressure for one to dominate.

Let's suppose that scientists will one day prove that there was nothing at the moment our universe originated. Would they then take the logical next step? Proving or disproving Genesis 1:1 that there is a God?

Politics, religion and science have one thing in common: belief in the validity of your ideas. Actually that one common ground may even drive them apart as they are all competing with each other to find people that are interested in converting to their beliefs.

Politics, religion and science are an integral part of my life. To me they form a triangle that balance my life. Facts are the common ground for politics, religion and science.

I haven't been able to find a corresponding picture on the internet and thus I made one myself:

The further people are outside the triangle in one of the 3 directions, the more extreme their beliefs. Belief systems is a topic that will be continued in my next blogs.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

My birthday wishes to my daughter Ellen

"I know a girl. She puts the color inside of my world.
But, she's just like a maze. Where all of the walls all continually change.
And I've done all I can. To stand on her steps with my heart in my hand.
Now I'm starting to see. Maybe It's got nothing to do with me.
Fathers, be good to your daughters. Daughters will love like you do.
Girls become lovers who turn into mothers. So mothers be good to your daughters too."

The above song, "Daughters" by John Mayer from his 2003 Heavier Things album is an admonition to fathers (and to a lesser extent mothers) to nurture their daughters in their childhood, because the relationship will affect their future relationships with men as adults. Source: Wikipedia

Today my daughter has become 20 years of age, and thus no longer a teenager but on her way to maturity. I gave her the best that I had but I now know that it wasn't good enough. I was too hurt myself to give her the best of my love.

"Let's say I'm feeling better. Let's say I'm feeling fine. Let's say I gave you all I had. And now I'm out of time. And my best wasn't good enough. And now this time to wonder. Now this time to heal. Time to let it all come down. But I don't know what I feel. But it aches and it hurts and it burns". Source: KANE featuring Anouk - My Best Wasn't Good Enough

I know that my divorce with your mother has created a wedge between you and me. "You see it your way. And I see it mine. But we both see it slippin' away". Source: Eagles, Best of my love, 1977

"Since you've been gone, I shut my eyes, And I fantasise, That you're here with me.
Will you ever return? I wont be satisfied, 'Till you're by my side. Don't wait any longer.
Why don't you come back? Please hurry. Why don't you come back? Please hurry.
Come back and stay for good this time. Don't ever leave me."
Source: Paul Young - Come Back And Stay (1983).

"Ohhh, wat gaat de tijd toch snel
Gisteren nog zag ik haar voor het eerst, lag ze hier in m`n armen
Wat is ze mooi en wat staat de tijd haar goed
Ik knipper m`n ogen en zie hoe ze steeds weer een beetje veranderd is
Maar hoe groot ze ook mag zijn
In mijn ogen blijft ze altijd klein."
Source: Marco Borsato - Dochters (2008)

Related music videos in alphabetical order:
Marco Borsato - Dochters (2008) - www.youtube.com/watch?v=eG-8qGysw8U
Eagles - Best of my love (1977) - www.youtube.com/watch?v=w508mExsHdc
KANE feat. Anouk - My Best Wasn't Good Enough - www.youtube.com/watch?v=u_tFqxabvuM
John Mayer - Daughters (2003) - www.youtube.com/watch?v=rZLbUIa7exE
Paul Young - Come Back And Stay (1983) - www.youtube.com/watch?v=aeeJhEpeUfc
Stevie Wonder - Happy Birthday (1980) - www.youtube.com/watch?v=FchMuPQOBwA

Monday, 9 March 2015

The "big-bang" versus the "growing earth, growing universe" theory - part 2

The "growing earth, growing universe" theory by Neal Adams (www.nealadams.com) is not a popular theory. Several hundreds of years ago such a theory would be similar as arguing that the Sun is not rotating around the Earth. An Earth rotating around the Sun was considered blasphemy.

The origin of the "growing earth, growing universe" theory is remarkably interesting. When looking from outer space towards planet Earth then the shapes of the continents seem to somehow almost perfectly fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. Yet that would leave us with an "island" in a ginormous ocean. Nature does not really support such an idea as the oldest fish fossiles are found at land rather than at sea. Assuming a much smaller, expanding, planet Earth would give a totally different picture: all continents would still be connected and covered by shallow seas. This would perfectly explain earth's geology and palaeontology (science of fossiles).

After initially supporting continental drift, the late Australian geologist S.Warren Carey advocated earth's expansion from the 1950s (before the development of plate tectonics provided the generally accepted explanation of the movement of continents) to his death, demonstrating that subduction and other events could not balance the sea-floor spreading at oceanic ridges, and piling yet unresolved paradoxes that continue to plague plate tectonics. Starting in 1956, he proposed some sort of mass increase in the planets and said that a final solution to the problem is only possible in a cosmological perspective in connection with the expansion of the universe.
Wikipeadia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expanding_Earth

The "growing earth, growing universe" theory by Neal Adams is strongly based upon the original ideas of Mr. Carey. Neal Adams argues that there was never a big bang. He uses the - rather undisputed - expansion of the Universe as the basis of his theory. The conversion of energy into matter and matter into energy are also leading themes in this theory.

In my layman's terms the theory assumes that energy converts into matter which makes things grow (e.g., plants, trees, animals, humans and also planets) until "physical maturity", then "bear fruits", and the die when matter becomes energy again. If the Sun and other planets/stars can die (explode, implode) then why would they not be able to grow?

If the Earth is 4.54 billion years old and has a diameter of some 12,700 km (equatorial = 12,756.3 km and polar = 12,714 km) then that would imply a growth of almost 2,8 millimetre per year which is that small in % against Earth's current size that mankind will most likely never be able to measure such small growth. 

Scientists claim that the Universe is some 13.8 billion years old. When applying the growth rate of Earth then the diameter of the Universe would once have been a mere 38,600 km. Such a result even supports claims that the Universe was once "nothing" or just "empty".

The big-bang theory and the "growing earth, growing universe" theory could actually even merge if the big-bang would involve a perfect big bang from energy (electrons/protons/neutrons) into matter (atoms ==> planets, AND atoms ==> cells ==> organisms) rather than any explosion. 

Sunday, 8 March 2015

The "big-bang" versus the "growing earth, growing universe" theory - part 1

The term "big bang" started as a joke, a derogatory remark made by astronomer Fred Hoyle. But the name stuck and spawned a series of nomenclature knockoffs. A universe that expands forever will yield a "big chill" or a "big freeze." A universe that collapses into a singularity and explodes outward again will experience a "big crunch" followed by a "big bounce." And a universe that reaches equilibrium and does nothing will become a "big bore." Source: http://science.howstuffworks.com.

Since my previous blog on this subject (http://leonoudejans.blogspot.nl/2015/02/is-there-anybody-out-there.html) I have been wondering why the Sun and the planets are shaped like balls. I found the answer on an ESA web page. See the explanation below. 

You cannot fail to notice it – space is littered with spherical shapes, from our own Earth to the enormous planet Jupiter. Why is Nature obsessed with all things round? Gravity is the force that keeps us on our planet by drawing us so powerfully towards its centre. It has much the same effect on everything else floating in the cosmos, as long as it is big enough. All objects in the Universe are subject to their own force of gravity. It is one of the fundamental forces of our Universe. For objects larger than approximately one fifth the size of Earth, gravity (rather than electrostatic forces, for example) will be the dominant force determining their shape. As gravity pulls matter towards other matter, a sphere forms. Why? Only a sphere allows every point on its surface to have the same distance from the centre, so that no part of the object can further 'fall' toward its centre. Gravity just keeps on pulling. Given time, even the highest mountains on Earth will eventually be levelled under its power. Source: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/Space_sensations/

The above made me wonder if the assumed expansion of the universe and gravity are opposing forces. The answer was readily available. See the explanation below. 

To determine if the universe will expand forever, coast to a stop or collapse on itself, astronomers must decide which of two opposing forces will win a cosmic tug-of-war. One of these forces is the bang part of the big bang - the explosion that catapulted the universe outward in all directions. The other force is gravity, the pull one object exerts on another. If the gravity within the universe is strong enough, it could reign in the expansion and cause the universe to contract. If not, the universe will continue to expand forever. Source: http://science.howstuffworks.com.

After reading this I am wondering how the universe would have been before the big bang??

What existed before the big bang? It's still an open question. Perhaps nothing. Perhaps another universe or a different version of our own. Perhaps a sea of universes, each with a different set of laws dictating its physical reality. Source: http://science.howstuffworks.com/

In my plain and simple view, the Universe is shaped too perfectly to assume any explosion or big bang. It just doesn't make any sense. Explosions create havoc, not perfection.

The only theory that makes sense to me is the - scientifically severely disputed - "growing earth, growing universe" theory by Neal Adams (http://www.nealadams.com). To be continued.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

A plea for a twin-track economic and military response

When people will look back at the history of the 21st century, they will see all the usual ingredients: financial crises, high unemployment, territorial military conflicts, political assassinations, fear, military provocations, terrorist attacks, the rise of extremist parties, the build-up of military power by wanna-be superpowers, the decline of democracy, and the rise of paranoid dictators.

Denial of the interconnectedness between these ingredients is perfectly human. Each individual ingredient can be reasoned away. The collective is too fearful for considering its potential meaning.

Europe's economical recovery is not shaping. Therefore, the European Central Bank has recently decided to pump billions of Euros into economies that have no political desire adjusting to economic reality. By doing so it is creating another asset (price) bubble as the economies will have much more money compared to the same amount of goods. And thus another financial crises is in the making.

Unfortunately, human history has taught us that there is another successful economic recovery tool. In a 100 years time, people will have witnessed whether that tool will have been applied once again.

The previous global economic recoveries were built on serious "collateral damage": some 17 million and 50-80 million respectively. Latter was some 3-4% of world population. We can easily double these percentages when comparing to a - more relevant - European population. Given advances in military and nuclear technology a new estimate could easily be another quadruplication (250 million).

The use of multilateral economic restrictions for taming aggressors may be new in history. Its effectiveness is being tested right now. It may prove to be sufficient. A twin-track economic and military response would however be more convincing.

The NATO Response Force in Europe still looks rather shallow with its current 13,000 troops and its announced increase to possibly 30,000 troops. Especially compared to the rapid build-up of Russian forces near the Ukrainian border of 150,000 troops since early 2014. The difference in size (10x) may appear to be most important but actually the time required for military deployment may be much more decisive. Sources: various.

Article 5 of the NATO treaty will be essential. Will the USA engage itself or not? No doubt some Republicans will blame liberal Europe and thus propose not engaging the USA in another war. Once you betray your friends then your enemies will become more daring. Alaska might be next. And then parts of Canada if a US response would still be lacking.

Recently, The Economist did a linguistic analysis in a map that showed how the world would look like if Mr. Putin's linguistic arguments would indeed prevail in defining territories.
Source: http://www.economist.com/news/international/21601862-why-should-russian-presidents-innovative-attitude-towards-borders-be-restricted

All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near. (Sun Tzu - The Art of War).

Friday, 6 March 2015

A new Glass-Steagall Act - part 2

This week I had a meeting with a senior banker in which I talked about my recent plea for a new Glass-Steagall Act which separates investment banking from savings and loans. Latter is like a core public utility function in our society. His response was skeptical as it would be like going back in time for many decades when we still had a government owned bank and moreover, he said, such a bank would not earn enough money given current interest (spread) levels and may even need government subsidies. I replied that he just acknowledged my plea. At least in my view.

In 1881 the Dutch government established the Rijkspostspaarbank (National Postal Savings Bank) which was privatised in 1986 and renamed into Postbank. A merger in 1989 with the NMB Bank led to the creation of NMB Postbank Groep, and a further merger with insurer Nationale Nederlanden in 1990 created the ING Group. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postbank_N.V.

The issue of not earning enough money is also a chicken-egg situation as the combination of immense size, complexity and excessive regulation may even dilute earnings.

On March 3 Triodos Bank announced its 2014 results. Triodos Bank is a small Dutch bank engaged in savings and (mortgage) loans in "politically correct" activities. It has a balance sheet total of some 10 billion, equity of 700 million, net profit of 30 million, and in 2013 some 900 employees. Sources: www.triodos.nl, www.z24.nl. In my view, Triodos proves that plain, simple and profitable retail banking is possible especially when a Return On Investment (ROI) is not the primary concern. 

Rabobank is a large Dutch bank which recently published its 2014 results. Its balance sheet total is near 700 billion, equity is 39 billion, its net results almost 2 billion, and some 48,000 employees. Source: www.rabobank.com. Let's compare the size of Rabobank and Triodos: balance sheet size = 70x, net profit = 61x, employees = 53x, equity = 56x. Remarkably, this simple test shows some economies of scale in employees yet not in net profits. 

Let's take another example: ING which released its 2014 results on February 15. ING Group is slightly bigger than Rabo: its balance sheet total is near 1,000 billion, equity is 58.5 billion, its results almost 1.2 billion, and some 53,000 FTE. Source: www.ing.com. Let's compare the size of ING and Triodos: balance sheet size = 100x, net profit = 40x, employees = 59x, equity = 84x. Again, this simple test shows economies of scale in employees yet certainly not in net profits. 

Even worse: the bigger the bank, the bigger the scandals: insider trading/front running, money laundering, rogue traders losing billions, LIBOR interest rate manipulation, foreign exchange (forex) rate manipulation, and last but not least the upcoming (HSBC) offshore tax evasion scandal.

While the globalisation of banks mirrored the globalisation of its clients, banks neglected one thing in comparison with their global clients: focus. Focus on corporate values as well as focus on activities. A global financial hypermarket is surely not what global clients are looking for.

The globalisation of banks also brought another issue: which government should bail them out? Without political globalisation, banking globalisation was a bridge too far. To date banks seem to be remapping their organisation more or less in accordance with the political jurisdiction in which they operate (e.g., Europe, UK, US). Swiss global banks may end up in a huge problem.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

To vote or not to vote. That is the question.

Last week I received an invitation to vote for two elections to be held in March. I haven't opened the enveloppe yet as I am still in doubt what to do: to vote or not to vote. I have considered the pros and cons already for many years. Still I haven't made up my mind yet. It is not the first time. Last year I did not exercise my voting rights with regard to the European Parliament. That was my first time ever. Certain decisions become easier once you have crossed a certain mental bridge.

The main issue for procrastinating is that I do not feel that any political party expresses my views on society. If several parties (left, right and center) would merge then I might feel more inclined to vote.

Not voting would probably force other parties to join the current coalition as no other political solution is available. That would imply that I basically get what I want (i.e., a political merger) although not on a voluntary basis.

That leaves only one argument to express my democratic right to vote: preventing (left and right wing) extremist parties to join forces in Holland. Like in Greece.

Both Dutch left and right wing extremist parties are full of 'change' promises and shallow on how to finance those promises. Like in Greece. Left wing extremist parties tend to simply finance their 'change' promises by raising taxes on the wealthy. Joining forces with a right wing extremist party takes away that opportunity. Once both parties are in power, they will do everything to stay in power and thus a collision on principle issues (e.g., taxation) is not likely. I expect that the same will happen in Greece: extreme right will prevent certain tax raises.

Is a vote against certain parties enough reason for voting? I don't hate these left and right wing extremist parties. Actually both even have a few - though certainly not many - sound ideas. I just don't like seeing them destabilising our country. Seeing them fail - once in office - may even be healthy for our political culture. Like in Greece.

There is not much left to choose for. The policy margins have become narrow. In my view, politics is is heading towards - or already is in - a dead end street. Please also see my February 9 blog: http://leonoudejans.blogspot.nl/2015/02/parliamentary-democracy-in-age-of-wisdom.html.

A democratic future alternative might be that voters express their vote through a ranking of priorities (e.g., more/less/same taxation, more/less/same government deficits, more/less/same salaries, more/less/same social benefits, more/less/same elderly care, more/less/same defence, more/less/same police, more/less/same healthcare, and so on) and that the aggregated priority ranking will be executed by a team of subject matter experts rather than politicians.

In my view the above is the only way forward to get out of the quicksand that politics has become in several democratic countries (e.g, Europe, USA). Politicians make us belief that the differences between parties are huge while in reality the policy margins are quite small.

The classic labeling of left, right and center is no longer sufficient. It's time for a genuine change.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

ERP systems in SME companies

Over the last decade ERP systems have become more affordable and popular as MicroSoft has entered that market with its product Dynamics AX (DAX). While MicroSoft originally advertised that product for the SME market, it now uses SAP as a comparison (http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/dynamics/erp-ax-overview.aspx).

In my view, Dynamics AX is a good product if you use it for its true purpose. I feel that more and more European companies consider DAX for the wrong reasons: penny wise, pound foolish. To date I still notice an increasing need for DAX specialists. It's probably related to its commercial success rather than solving the problems during implementation.

In essence, DAX is designed for standalone American SME companies that have single currency ($), single language (English), single jurisdiction (USA), US payment systems (cheques), basic / limited segregation of duties. It's very user friendly as a user can do nearly anything in the system which makes perfect sense in small companies. Consolidation, multi-currency, multi (European) jurisdiction, multi-user, multi-language, mature segregation of duties and authorisation matrices, inventory valuation, and European (non cheque based) payment systems are a problem. Having an Internal Audit department and introducing DAX is really asking for trouble.

Some years ago I joined a company that was already involved in a DAX implementation. I was told that the ERP system would be implemented before year-end. I was astonished by that time frame as I had never ever seen such an ambitious time line in my entire career. Today DAX has still not been implemented and SAP is already being considered as its successor. Consolidation, multi-currency, multi-user, multi-language, and extensive detailed segregation of duties and authorisation matrices were amongst the main problems. The core problem was even far worse as the business specific application software did not match the company's business model. That only came to light after an ever increasing number of user change requests.

In my view, ERP decisions in medium sized companies are taken by the wrong persons. That person, usually the CEO, hardly even works with an ERP system. As far (s)he is concerned it is just pushing the famous "button" and it should "just do it".

Involving the users is easier said than done. Moreover, most users do not have company wide tasks and are only interested in optimising their own tasks. They also tend to think in 'as is' rather than in 'should be'. Why bother changing a proven successful daily routine?

The only other person with a company wide scope is the finance director. He/she needs to cope with the system on a daily basis. It is in her/his basic interest to minimise future IT problems and to minimise total cost of ownership (TCO). For the very same reasons, consultants and ERP suppliers should not be in selection phase despite what they always tell us. The independence of many consultants is biased anyway due to commercial links with suppliers following specialisation.

Do not expect "eternal" gratitude after a successful migration. As often success in the backoffice is only measured by the lack of failure. Commercial front office success pays everyone's salaries including yours. Just deal with it.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

A plea for splitting up the too big too fail banks.

Last Sunday I watched my favourite TV documentary (Tegenlicht, VPRO) which had an interview with Dutch author Joris Luyendijk about bankers and the financial crisis. Two years ago Joris Luyendijk went to London to work for The Guardian and to write about The City, the financial heart of the UK. Recently, he published a book called "Dit kan niet waar zijn. Onder bankiers." which would translate like "This can't be true. Amongst bankers."

The interview with Joris Luyendijk left me with mixed feelings. He feels that the banking crisis will repeat itself as the heart of the problem was not in the people but in the banking system itself. That system nurtures amoral and greedy persons. His analysis was sound but he did not offer a solution.

In my youth (60s-70s) banks used to be like plain, simple and boring utility companies (e.g., gas, light, water). Basically they accepted short-term savings deposits and used that money to offer long-term mortgage financing or working capital financing. The difference between interest paid and interest charged ("spread") was used to pay their overhead (e.g., salaries). The banking risks were rather limited to credit (write-offs), interest (mismatch in time) and liquidity (bank runs) risks. Salaries were rather low as banks were not very popular employers back then. In essence: low risk, low reward (profits, salaries).

The core function of banks (i.e., savings and loans) has not changed. Size and complexity did change. And subsequently regulation. In my view, the popular shareholder value discussions of the 80s are the root of the current situation. Banks transformed from utility like companies into commercial companies. Globalisation of the largest banking clients made banks copying this behaviour ("follow your client"). Many smaller banks were taken over by the larger ones. The resulting hike in overhead required more - and more profitable - products. In essence: high risk, high reward (profits, salaries).

Due to the immense banking dimensions and its enormous organisational complexity, only few persons - even in banking - saw what was shaping. When the music stopped playing, banks, banking supervisors and governments were all caught by surprise. Governments had to prevent the financial system from a collapse as banks had become "too big too fail". As some bankers would say: profits are privatised and losses are socialised.

Banks use their "low risk, low reward" core public utility function to blackmail governments into a bailout once their "high risk, high reward" other activities have caused a near melt down. This phenomenon is also referred to as "moral hazard". Wikipedia: in economics, moral hazard occurs when one person takes more risks because someone else bears the burden of those risks.

There is a solution against "too big too fail": implementing a law like the US Glass-Steagall Act of 1933. The Glass-Steagall Act, also known as the Banking Act of 1933, was passed by US Congress in 1933 and prohibits commercial banks from engaging in the investment business. It was enacted as an emergency response to the failure of nearly 5,000 banks during the Great Depression. (NY Times). Once their core public utility function is taken away from them, investment banks would be mere trading houses and would no longer be banks that require a bailout at the expense of tax payers.

Implementing a law like the Glass-Steagall Act would also solve several other discussions like the required capital buffers of a bank and the ongoing discussions about bankers' remuneration.

As Nike would say in its commercials: Just Do It.

Monday, 2 March 2015

50 Shades

Several years ago I read the first book of the Fifty Shades trilogy. A disappointing book about a fascinating topic. I was unable to motivate myself to read part two and three. The writing is like any other Bouquet book. The trilogy has been written by a female English author (Erika Mitchell) although the name (E.L. James) could well suggest a male writer. The books and the movie are quite popular amongst women despite the central BDSM theme.

Its current popularity as a movie is a surprise to me as this topic is usually more of a cult theme. A cult is a religious or social group with socially deviant or novel beliefs and practices (source: Wikipedia). This topic has been covered in movies before but with limited success: Histoire d'O / Story of O (1975) and Secretary (2002). Histoire d'O is a novel published in 1954 by French author Anne Desclos under the pen name Pauline Réage. Secretary also has female authors, being Mary Gaitskill (short story) and Erin Cressida Wilson (screenplay). Source: IMDB.

It is hard for me to explain the female interest in this topic as I do not really know what drives women towards this subject. This blog article will thus entirely be from a male perspective.

Basically there are two different ways of expression. The book covers one of them which I shall refer to as private submissiveness. The other one is public submissiveness which is basically just a commercial show performed on a stage. Two years ago I finally had the guts to attend the popular KamaSutra Erotic Lifestyle Exhibition in Utrecht. It was an entire waste of time and money. Yet I did see a BDSM show. Remarkably, most spectators of that show were men while the Exhibition was full of female attendees. I feel that women in general do not like the public display of submissiveness.

Private submissiveness has several alternatives which basically rank in the degree of submissiveness. Yet they are all on a voluntary basis albeit some with a mutually signed agreement that explains roles and responsibilities. Private submissiveness is not only for women. The male version of private submissiveness is even available on a commercial basis. Female private submissiveness on a commercial basis may be rare when we disregard female commercial sex workers.

Submissiveness and sex are two different topics although often intertwined in the media as "sex sells". Basically, the movie Secretary is a long and boring movie, especially if you expect to see sex. My favourite scene is when Maggie Gyllenhaal, the secretary, starts making typos on purpose as that will make her boss, James Spader, give her a spanking which she clearly enjoys. In my view, the movie is about - in some ways, mutual - (mind) control and how to achieve that.

According to research especially dominant women enjoy sexually submission fantasies (source: www.psychologytoday.com). That research did not explain the leap from fantasy to reality.

In my view, it is not easy for dominant women to find a man whom they actually respect. Such respect results from increasingly intense communication. The intimacy of that communication feels similar to finding a soulmate. The communication is also similar to a kind of psychological warfare and ultimately leads to the D/s roles.

She: “So you’ll get your kicks by exerting your will over me.” He: “It’s about gaining your trust and your respect, so you’ll let me exert my will over you. I will gain a great deal of pleasure, joy, even in your submission. The more you submit, the greater my joy – it’s a very simple equation.” She: “Okay, and what do I get out of this?” He shrugs and looks almost apologetic. “Me,” he says simply. Quote from Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James.