Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A qualitative improvement

Over the last few months my father, brother, and I have been spending our leisurely free-time playing Blizzards StarCraft 2. We got the game because we were obsessed with the first one, and we like the 2nd one even better. Although when we initially started the 2nd one, we struggled. We kept on playing, but just could not win a game, almost to the point of demoralization. Around a month ago, however, we started winning games by elevating the level of our play through strategy and unit selection. The latter is particularly important, as the units seem to have a rock-paper-scissors relationship. Marines woop void rays, Collosy woop marines, etc.... We eventually got up to rank 8 in the bronze division. OK, maybe the bronze division is the worst out of Silver, Gold, Eagle, and Diamond, but its still pretty good, the players are no noobs and sometimes we beat guys from the Gold and Silver divisions. Tonight, however, we engaged in some trash-talking with some players, and we were infuriated that they won, quite quickly I may add.
Their strategy was to build as many of the basic units, such as marines and zealots, as possible early in the game, and not to worry about a long term strategy. And with those units they attacked us persistently, concentrating on eviscerating our resource gathering units so as to cripple our productive abilities. It was embarrassing.

But as the old adage goes, one learns more by losing than by winning, so we incorporated that strategy on the next few games. I built a hoard of marines while my Dad and Bro built zealots and then we eventually built Banshees and Void Rays respectively. The results were immediate, as we won our next 4 games, launching ourselves into rank 4. We even won one game where Taylor was rushed immediately by zerg and barely survived, which left my father and I the burden of shouldering the offensive against the 3 opponents.

I don't think you have to play for hours upon hours a day like some Koreans to become a top player, just deliberate practice through intelligence and feedback, just like we did today.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Society needs to upgrade its lexicon

Having an avid thirst to learn new words and expand one's vocabulary is the hallmark of a curious mind. Leonardo da Vinci, often consider the most curious man ever, recorded and defined some 9000 words in his notebooks during his lifetime. I am doing something similar by writing down a five word flash card every day and taking it around with me everywhere I go, as well as writing down every unknown word I come across in a notebook for a future look-up. Why? Because it is one of the most effective ways of accelerating one's intellect. Generally, one's vocabulary is a reasonably accurate metric for determining the concepts that an individual understands and is cognizant of, which is why it plays a significant role in aptitude tests. In the past year, 2010, I estimate that I have learned close to a thousand words. My scholastic abilities have sharpened as a result, particularly my writing and critical thinking.
Its interesting to see the importance that words play in an individual's life. And the same applies to a society as a whole: the collective public's awareness and perception of reality is defined by the depth of its lexicon.

It was George Orwell that observed that if a word is cut off from the standard dictionary, then the concept that that word expresses will soon either be forgotten or will become too vague to become meaningful.

The context of Orwell's observation was in a totalitarian state attempting to control the minds of the proletariat via the dictionary. So its somewhat surprising - well, to some people - that a similar process is occurring in real time, in fact, its always been happening. Currently there has been no deliberate dictionary modifications, although I have no doubt that some of our simpleton politicians in washington would have no trouble doing this if given the chance, but the vulgar masses have remained, like they always have, either ignorant of words or deceived as to what certain words mean. To give an example of the latter, the word "fascism" is being carelessly flung out to describe right-wing politics, as if a small and limited government is anything like what Mussolini envisioned in his manifesto. As to the former, there is no shortage of evidence for the inch wide vocabulary that cripples the masses. Just as the body needs a certain amount of oxygen and will suffocate if it doesn't, the people are suffering from an intellectual vacuum of creativity neurons and expressive cells. Even nominally educated adults have a shockingly shallow lexicon.

As I implied earlier, this is not a problem unique to our age. Quite the opposite in fact, as people probably know more than in any other era. But the aforementioned dearth still impairs our society. The schools are notorious for shutting down the curiosity in our youngsters that vitiates them for life. I myself do not have an answer to this, other than to work your own backside off, and cherish the ride that will be given to you for doing so.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Good Game

Yesterday, I played in one of the funnest b-ball games of my life. We were playing in the alpha omega tournament championships, we got there by crushing our opponents in the first two games. I was particularly motivated and pumped up for this game because of the audience that was there - I was actually on a campout that weekend and my scout friends took me to the game, so they watched.

We took the lead early on, 16 to 4 at one point, and maintained that lead up to the 4th quarter. But because their best player hit an NBA three at the 3rd quarter buzzer, the other teamed came out at the beginning of the fourth quarter sufficiently energetic to take the lead, which went back and fourth during that quarter. With around 2 minutes left, I was a little nervous when we were down by 3. But fortunately, one of our players hit a 3 pointer to tie the game. Going on, the game was tied with roughly 30 seconds left - the other team had the ball. We caused a turnover on their part, however, and had the ball with twenty seconds left, waiting to take the last shot. My teammate, Austin Hughey, had the ball and when there was 6 seconds left he decided to drive it in. But when doing so, he was cut off and picked up his dribble, so with three seconds left, he put up an off balanced 3 pointer from the wing. I was at the opposite baseline at the time, and while I was crashing in for the rebound I realized that it was going to be an air ball. So I ran as fast as I could to it, caught it in the air, and did a reverse layup at the buzzer to win the game. It all happened so quickly, and the championship was ours.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Nassim book

Over the past few months, I kept on seeing and hearing about Nassim's book "the Black Swan." I was instantly intrigued by it, but never got around to actually reading it. Well, I picked it up at the library earlier today so I will being reading it within the next few weeks. What intrigues me about the book is that it has a combined philosophical and economic theme. It presumably demolishes the efficient market hypothesis and other assumptions that are the foundation for mainstream investment theory. Which, I just found out today, is very much in line with the Austrian school's position on the matter.

So expect a review or outline of the book in the near future.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Harder than expected

Earlier tonight my team played Westbury Christian JV. Our own JV absolutely demolished their freshman team the game before, that, and the fact that we had about 4 guys taller than their tallest guy, and none of them looked very impressive in the warmups made me a little cocky going into the game. Needless to say, that confidence was shattered in the opening minutes. We ended up loosing by 31.
The interesting part about the game was that the players on that team were not particularly talented; I would bet with a reasonable degree of confidence that I could beat each one of them one on one. The reason they whooped our panties was their defense and running, the fact that they were well coached, and our inability to stop the 3 point shot. Their in-your-face man to man defense - to the point of pushing and hacking - led to numerous turnovers on our part and an inability to get the ball inside without it getting slapped out of our hands. This well-executed defense led invariably to copious fast break points, which was what allowed them to secure victory.

Westbury is reputed with a solid and even fantastic basketball program. I was wrong to doubt it. And they won, fair and square. Congratulations to them.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

One more problem

In the previous post, I enumerated a brief list of why our current economic situation is far worse than the Great Depression; the fact that we are completely dependent on foreign manufacturing precludes the possibility of us recovering from our current economic predicament the way we did during the Great Depression. But despite that this was no small list, I was kicking myself because I didn't mention 1 particular thing, which happens to play a huge role in our ability to recover. And that is oil, just as we are industrially dependent, so are we energy dependent, big time. History suggests that economic hardship is met with increased conflict. If this is the case, then we can suspect that more contentions and wars will take place. If the middle east is not an ally, or even if our enemy wipes our oil pipe lines out, we are done for. But not only will oil scarcity and dependence have execrable ramifications for a war time economy, but in a peace time one has well. As oil gets scarcer, and the populations of the world increase, the price of oil will increase, very dramatically. This will EVISCERATE the economy. Ladies and Gentlemen, the seriousness of our situation cannot be overstated. The culmination of downturn factors is far too strong for anyone at this point to stop. Something unrealistically dramatic has to happen. Its a brave new world, folks. And the scope of our degeneration only underscores this.

Even if one is skeptical of our economy's Great Depression-like nature, one cannot credibly deny that it will be longer and a more drawn out recovery, given our current inability to refresh past growth levels.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

America's true problem

It has been my relishing hobby - not by sadism, but by my passion for cold analysis - to chronicle the various trends that indicate that we are presently witnessing the end days of America. Naturally when the day comes, baffled historians will attempt to put the pieces together in the effort to diagnosis what exactly happened, and why everything all went so horribly wrong. The death of Capitalism will be pronounced, and the communists will finally have their day when they can boast in triumph . These pronouncements will be wrong, of course, which is a topic for a later post. It is the purpose of this post to examine the fundamental flaw of our present Government system, and how this flaw is the ultimate causal factor of the decline, and the eventual fall, of the American Empire.

The flaw I am referring to is the enactment of universal suffrage in our representative democracy. The founding fathers had it right; the tyranny of the masses really can be as harsh as monarchy. The historical facts are actually relatively easy to find. Consider the following, for example, taken from Did Women's suffrage change the size and scope of the Government?

Giving women the right to vote significantly changed American politics from the very beginning. Despite claims to the contrary, the gender gap is not something that has arisen since the 1970s. Suffrage coincided with immediate increases in state government expenditures and revenue, and these effects continued growing as more women took advantage of the franchise. Similar changes occurred at the federal level as female suffrage led to more liberal voting records for the state’s U.S. House and Senate delegations. In the Senate, suffrage changed voting behavior by an amount equal to almost 20 percent of the difference between Republican and Democratic senators. Suffrage also coincided with changes in the probability that prohibition would be enacted and changes in divorce laws. We were also able to deal with questions of causality by taking advantage of the fact that while some states voluntarily adopted suffrage, others where compelled to do so by the Nineteenth Amendment. The conclusion was that suffrage dramatically changed government in both cases. Accordingly, the effects of suffrage we estimate are not reflecting some other factor present in only states that adopted suffrage. [...]

Giving the Women the right to vote truly was bad news for America. As the correlation between women's suffrage and goverment spending and increased safety nets has been proven, it becomes increasingly difficult for liberty cherishing patriots to tolerate women's enfranchisement.

But it doesn't stop there, I will go so far as to assert that not only is it women who should have the voting rights taken away, but also the parasites of our country: welfare recipients. In fact, it seems only rational to enfranchise just the net tax payers. As revolutionary as this may sound to our sissy politically correct minds, it was actually the way of the world for most of human history, at least whenever they had a recognizable democracy. Before, it was only property owners would could vote; because the primary form of taxation was the property tax, it was only these individuals who had to pay it who could have a voice of where THEIR money went. This makes sense even when one looks from a wholly pragmatic perspective; If the parasites are given a voice, then the parasitical safety nets that they desperately hold on to will become the political norm and will be subject to constant expansion.

I always find it amusing when people are genuinely baffled about the poor selection of politicians our political parties give us when the explanation is quite simple: simpleton voters produce simpleton politicians. It is the fact that our politicians are a brainless lot of scumbags that we are in such a trainwreck of a situation. And by extention, it is the fact that we do not have the balls to "no" to the ignorant masses and beta-provider seeking women that we are doomed. Goodbye America. In your original form you were loved, and are still loved now, but the day will soon come when all of your previous mistakes will catch up to you. And remember, you are not immune to the fate of the Roman, Assyrian, Greek, and British empires.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Republicans and the Great Social waves

I wasn't surprised when the Republicans reclaimed the house a few days ago, although I did expect that the they were going to get more senates seats then they did. What we see happening is a reactive wave that was triggered by a decade-plus of corruption and anti-liberty policies conducted by the bi-factional ruling party. This reactive wave has taken into the form of the tea-party, which is an adjustment from complacency to social unrest.

The historically inclined reader will note that this turnaround in the election cycle was even more dramatic than the one that occurred in '94. The reason is that inertia can only be countered by a greater force. The pendulum really does swing back; the greater the wave, the stronger its counter wave. What are its implications?

Robert Prechtor has developed an intriguing field called socionomics, which analyzes the various waves of mass human behavior, very much similar to the concept of psychohistory as described in Isaac Asimov's Foundation series. Prechtor has divided the waves into different categories, according to there strengths. They range from Positive mood bull waves to a Grand Supercycle Bear wave. It is Prechtor's contention that we are presently in the mist of a Grand Supercycle wave that was an order of magnitude worse than the supercycle wave that encompassed the Great Depression.

Prechtors conclusions have a certain political significance in that they inform us that no matter who we vote in, even Ron Paul, there will still be a drastic economic and cultural ills that cannot be fixed overnight, given how this is the result of literal decades of negative social inertia. Many republicans and tea partiers still have their hopes up that a conservative victory in the congress, and eventually in the presidency, can cure our societal and economic cancers, but I am afraid that these hopes are misplaced. While they certainly can ameliorate the situation, they cannot avert it.
Some insist that the worst is over and that we have only room for improvement, citing the march 2009 bull rally as evidence - although I find it highly amusing that no one worth his water has cited the hilarious post facto revisions that imply that the recession ended in june 2009. As much as I want to embrace their optimism, I cannot, for all cultural and economic indicators vouch otherwise. Not only is the level of malinvestment higher than the Great Depression, but the present U.S economy is far less amendable to correction and recovery; The U.S's manufacturing base is wiped out, debt is at unsustainable levels, security and health care programs are going bankrupt, the people are rapidly becoming fat and decadent, there are more parasitical government and government mandated workers, and more welfare recipients. The situation is far worse than what our present economic statistics lead us to believe.

As for the march 2009 bull rally, i'm particularly concerned because it is has lasted this long; it really will be a hard and fast fall once it is over, and it will not look pretty. The tea party is little more than a reactive movement to the wave that will ultimately ensure America's unraveling. A fool can see a crises when it hits, but it takes a wise man to spot it from a distance. The tea party was just a little late , I'm afraid, and while it can prevent the crises from being exacerbated, it cannot preclude its inevitable appearance. It will, however, be interesting to see how the republicans will act in washington. Will they take a stand for genuine freedom, unplugged safety nets, and the principles of our Nation's founding, or will they persist in the same, failed policies of the previous decades?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Aiming for a higher SAT score

When conversing with my fellow peers, champions of the teenage spirit, replete with the youthful hubris that their young age entails, I find myself astonished at the amount of indifference they have regarding to standardized tests such as the SAT. This would be remarkably surprising if one held to the rational view of mankind, which states that Man mostly acts in a way that can be recognized as rational within the context of his aspirations, given that SAT scores play a huge role in college admissions. But under the oft-confirmed model that humans seldom act rationally, this phenomenon makes perfect sense. But for the benefit of those who deviate from their brethren in taking these tests seriously, I will elect to spell out some useful tips for improving one's score. If applied properly these tips can yield you a bonus of at least 300 points.

Before I get into the meat of this post, it is first necessary for me to categorize the different areas that the SAT tests, and thus the areas that we should study to enhance our scores.

Reading: Reading speed, reading comprehension, vocabulary, and forensics, which is defined as "the art or study of argumentation and formal debate." I include the latter one because it is important to be able to "argue" for one answer in favor of another based on logical and documentary evidence.

Math: Algebra, Geometry, Statistics

Writing: Grammar, diction, writing.

I divide the different sections into various subsections because just like in every field or skill, focusing on specific goals is necessary for dramatic self-improvement. No generalization. While it may help to a certain extent, it is much less effective than concentrating on specific oriented goals.

That being said, let us proceed to the reading sections. Reading speed can be increased through many techniques, I suggest you get a book on it. But a few rudimentary tips are as follows: focus on the space above the words so you can glance at more than one word at a time, reading one word at a time can be useful for developing one's sense of the authors writing style and helps one's spelling, but it costs unnecessary time for the SAT; just read a lot, not only will this improve your overall reading speed but it will familiarize you with more information that could potentially be presented on the test, and thus making your reading easier. For example, one article I had to read was about dualism, and because I was already well-versed on the topic, I was able to blast right through it. Reading comprehension: Again, read a lot. Also, improve your ability to concentrate, this allows your mind to become more actively engaged in the material, which accelerates learning and growth. Vocabulary: This is one of the more straightforward ones. And like everything, diversifying your methods is the best way to develop. Ways to broaden your vocab: Read material that uses a broad vocabulary, look up any word that you are unfamiliar with and write it down along with its definition, making it subject to future reference; Get a SAT vocabulary book and carry it around with you at all times - in the car, bathroom,etc... - and study it. I got one that had 500 words on it and learned about 250 of them in a month in a half. Now I have one with 3000 words, and once I get through with it I will have a master vocabulary (not that I don't already, you see). Additionally, one can make note cards with, say, 5 words on it and focus on those 5 words all day; the next day have 5 more new words. I don't bother with flashcards but they are beneficial. If you can do at least 3 of the aforementioned 5 methods, your doing good.
As for forensics, read books and blogs that debate about topics and then joy a debate team yourself. Whats also beneficial is looking up all of the logical postulates and fallacies. Run a Wikipedia search on a logical fallacy, then on the bottom of the page they will have a huge list of them.

Math: The math section is perhaps the least coach-able of the three, but it can still be taught. Focus on your math textbooks, try to get to at least pre-calculus. Make sure that not only do you learn the relevant math lessons, but that you learn the reasoning behind it. Exposing yourself to its foundations is the best way to enhance and deepen your reasoning skills. Bonus: if you have the time, try different textbooks.

Writing: Pickup a grammar book, particularly one that focuses on SAT relevant grammar.

In fact, I would wholly recommend getting an SAT prep book. The best one in my opinion is Barrons "SAT 2400, aiming for the perfect score."

Benjamin Franklin

I am presently looking for a good biography on Benjamin Franklin. One that documents his ideas, actions, accomplishments, and character. I have already read several intermediate books about him, but that was a few years ago and I am looking to reimmerse myself in his life.

In my opinion, Benjamin Franklin is, perhaps only behind leonardo da vinci, the paragon example of a Renascence man. He constantly applied his voracious mind to almost every task in what lead to a seemingly endless list of accomplishments. He wrote insatiably, invented many practical devices as well as a musical instrument, he pioneered into the then-scientifically novel subject of electricity, he made a huge mark in every community that he inhabited, and was one of the most influential founding father of the greatest nation on earth. And yet this ever so lofty list hardly does justice to the scope of his achievements.

Man needs role models; Benjamin Franklin was one of mine a few years ago. After reading that Ben made an 8x8 magic square, I endeavored to do the same. I completed it in roughly 3 hours of mentally stimulating elbow grease, which unfortunately I misplaced somewhere. But for some reason, my interest in him faded for the last two years, looking more towards other renascence men such as da vinci to provide for a model.

This changed recently, however, as my inspiration derived from Franklin's legacy has been renewed. He truly was a great man, and as I read about his life and accomplishments in further detail, I will not fail to document the one's I see fit on this blog. In fact, I am even ruminating about writing a novel based on a mentor developing an uber renascence man. But that is a subject for a different post