My mind can't seem to stop mulling on entropy. As the S value of a closed system increases, the energy available to that system declines. At its core energy (or information for that matter) is nothing more than order and order means that any given group of discreet elements can only combine in a limited number of ways. My son introduced me to a singer who goes by the name of Bright Eyes and I thought that this kid should be the Bob Dylan or even Woody Guthrie of this generation, but as quickly as I thought that, I realized it was not possible. My son's generation won't have a Dylan or a Guthrie - there are too many possibilities, too many options, too many outlets, too many... It is fantastic that people can create their own sound tracks for their lives but... How many possible combinations can there be? When does a culture's, a society's, a nation's S value become too high? Can we continue to create more and more possible combinations of practically everything in our closed system and still survive? Oh, don't worry about it. Perhaps I'm just too old. But you really should listen to Bright Eyes sometime. You might even save our culture by doing so, who knows?
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Monday, March 30, 2009
I cannot think of a more trenchant or pithy comment on life and the universe. E = mc2 pales by comparison and is meaningless without this statement. It transcends science and is truly religious in scope. The Ancient Egyptians would have treasured it and one can almost be forgiven for seeing some synchronicity between the use of the letter "S" as a symbol for entropy and as the first letter of the name of the lord of chaos, "Set". Shannon's insight - that entropy applies to information as well as energy - was almost as amazing as Boltzmann's original epiphany. Money (capital, monetary units, dollars, euros, etc.) - because it symbolizes energy and because it is a form of information - must be subject to entropy. Is it possible that financial system is collapsing because it's "S" value has become too high? Is it possible that the trillions of dollars being injected into the system will have no effect at all? Will these trillions of dollars (an amount that is meaningless because one cannot conceptualize it) hasten the decline by pushing the "S" value even closer to infinity. Have we reached the point where our current concept of money will no longer work because money represents too many things? I'm not sure that this even applies, but the thought won't leave me alone.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
I lived in Mexico for 12 years. My wife is from Mexico, my children were born there, and I love the country and its people. One was a huge guy who always gave me a big abrazo that took me off my feet. My wife and her brothers grew up with him, he was at almost every family function I remember and he was murdered by drug traffickers. Like my father-in-law and all but one of my brothers-in-law, he was a police officer. He was a Mexico City officer who volunteered to go north because he thought he was needed. He was and now he is no more. Most Americans seem to think that Mexico has become a Columbia - it has not and it will not. To see why, look at the op-ed piece in today's New York Times entitled "Mexican Evolution." Most Americans seem to think that Mexico is hopelessly corrupt and they are wrong. After 12 years, during which we lived through some of the worst things to happen to Mexico, I know how corrupt the country can be. I also know how honorable it can be. Manuel was honorable, very honorable and I cannot stand the idea that some seem to have about men like him. Yes, he was killed because he crossed the traffickers, but he crossed them by opposing them - he did not take money from them. Like cops everywhere, there are good and bad cops in Mexico, but most are like Manuel.
Monday, March 23, 2009
Executive compensation. I will continue to flog this particular horse everywhere and every time I can because this is the most just and effective way of controlling executive pay. Executive compensation must be linked to the salaries of everyone in the company. By legally linking top executives' compensation packages to a legally mandated multiple of the their companies' average salaries, we ensure that top executives will do well only when their companies and their companies' employees do well.
Saturday, March 21, 2009
I do not know why part of the trillions that the Government and the Federal Reserve are giving to financial institutions could not be given to the citizens instead. The funds that would be given to citizens who are minors would be put in trust funds for education and health care. Regulations could also ensure that the recipients use the funds to become solvent. Citizens could then use their remaining funds in any way they want. In this way, the people will decide which corporations survive and which do not. This will force corporations to offer truly competitive products at competitive prices. To those who cry "socialism"; how is giving funds to corporations any less socialistic? Furthermore, the giving of $250,000 to each citizen would barely make a dent in the amount of money the Government and the Fed have given and are planning to give financial institutions. Moreover, this would be a much more democratic bailout than that being implemented. Finally, if inflation becomes too much of a problem, then we should take a page from Nixon's play book and impose a price freeze.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
We as a society must redefine this concept in legal, moral, and human terms. Too few receive too much while too many receive too little. It is painfully obvious that market forces alone will not regulate executive compensation. Just legal standards must be established and enforced by law. Every year I was told that no employee could receive more than a 3.5% raise and that my department's total salary could not increase by more than 2.5%. Every year, the CEO and top management received raises that exceeded the levels established by obscene margins. Executive salaries and incentives must be restricted to reasonable multiples of the company's average wage and their raises must be limited to the percentage increase of the company's average wage. That bonuses and options to top managers be granted only if the company does well must also be legally mandated. The pressing need to enact laws to ensure that a company's executives do well when, and only when, the company and its employees do well demonstrates to what extent our society has been corrupted by greed. In a fundamental way, this greed is no different than that that destroyed the Soviet Union and which, if unchecked, will destroy us as well.
Monday, March 16, 2009
how fun reading is with an electronic book. I can't explain why, but I enjoy reading much more with my Sony E-Reader. My children gave me a PRS-505 for Christmas and I can't put the thing down. I've read more than 15 books since Christmas and a large number of lengthy papers and essays available on the Internet that I hadn't read before because my back makes spending more than 30 minutes reading a single paper on the computer a less than enjoyable experience. The only negative about the gift is that it has made me very aware of an extremely imortant issue that I didn't worrry about before. It is an extremely trenchant issue for every individual and for the world at large, but it seems that most give it little or no thought.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
It's never easy to be sure what you are buying when purchasing coffee in supermarkets - especially if you absolutely cannot live without a very fresh, very dark roast and you want to try something other than Starbucks. There are some brands you can count on: PapaNicholas (good), Caribou (better), and Peets (best).
- For a good decafinated dark roast, try the decafinated French Roast by PapaNicholas (www.papanicholas.com).
- If you want a Rainforest Alliance Certified product, go for the French Roast by Caribou Coffee (www.cariboucoffee.com).
- Finally, if you want a "now I can die happy" coffee, the only product in our local supermarkets is the whole bean French Roast of Peets Coffee. The beans look as if they had been polished by hand and the aroma, taste, and texture are exceptional. Check out their website (www.peets.com) and see how coffee should be made.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
We and the corporations who serve us have lost sight of what a corporation does. Everyone knows that a corporation takes raw materials, combines these with energy and creates a product. Where we have failed is in our definitions. All companies use the same raw material, the same energy, and produce the same product. Corporations are failing because management is unaware of this. The only raw material is people (employees, providers, customers, investors). The only real energy is information. The product is a culture - the Chrysler culture, the Bank of America culture, the Apple culture, the Viagra culture, etc. If management has a strong idea of what their company's and their products' cultures are and if all decisions are made based on how they affect the cultures, companies will prosper and shareholder value will increase. If the companies continue to treat their products as commodities, if they continue in their failure to watch over their cultures, the corporations will fail. If managers do not establish the culture and commit themselves and the company completely to it, they and their companies will fail. Chrysler will never rise again unless it truly means something to be Chrysler.
Even though an implant pushes a constant stream of highly concentrated narcotics directly into my cerebral-spinal fluid, the pain almost always hovers around a 7 or an 8 (10 being the worst pain I can imagine and I can imagine a lot). Religion is, therefore, something I have thought and read a great deal about over the past 10 years. When asked, I used to say that I was a nonaligned Christian. I don't respond that way anymore. The title I use now is Perennial. I will write more about this, but the easiest definition I can give for Perennial is that the way one lives one's life and, most importantly, the way one treats one's fellow creatures and one's planet is infinitely more important than what one believes. I know all of the arguments against this and I no longer believe them. The worst tragedy to befall humanity came about when Religion was defined as something different from the way we lead our lives and the ways in which we do all that we do. A question about Religion would have been meaningless to an Ancient Egyptian. For them, it was just a question of fulfilling one's obligations to one's self, to one's family, to one's clan, to all others, to one's society, and to the Divine. We must return to this sense of Religion, to this sense of life.
Monday, March 2, 2009
It may seem strange to be thankful for constant severe pain, but I have become thankful for it. Without it I would still be so wrapped up in international pharmaceutical marketing that I would have little or no time to find the things I have found. I would have missed so much of my childrens' lives. I would have had no time to have read what I have read and all I have yet to read. Most importantly, I never would have taken the time to simply think. I hope to share with you what I have discovered in a way that will be meaningful for us both. I will post on four subjects: Religion, Politics and Current Affairs, Books and Reading, and (a subject very dear to me) Coffee. I hope to post just often enough to keep you interested and not enough to put you off. Most of all, I'll always strive to be honest with you and with myself so that we all may get something from this. I hope you like the title photo. It is by my son and with his permission I will share more of his work with you - that may be a better reason to visit this blog occasionally than anything I might write.