Tag Archives: Science

Horses, Hubris and Economics 101

This morning I read a short essay written by a fellow I know, Joseph Pearce.  He is a very decent fellow and, I like to think, a friend.  Not only that, he is smart; smart enough to know when folks aren’t.  Also, he is kind enough to let them know the truth about themselves.  He’s classy enough, too, to do it in such a classy way that only the dummy will know who he or she is.  One hopes that brings about the necessary reform.  But, dummies can be stubborn.

I read his article, titled What Is Economics, which appears in an online journal called The Imaginative Conservative and I think of an old friend of mine who is dead nearly one year, now.  So, at least he is not old any longer.  He is as Rod Stewart sings, forever young, I pray

My friend was named Charlie.   Joseph Pearce’s article brings to my mind  some things about Charlie which I thought at the time were dumb things for him to do.  Alas, I was no Joseph Pearce, then, and I simply watched my friend.  Nor am I now, and would probably do the same thing, watch. Besides, it is too late.  It also makes me think about some things, big things, which I began thinking about a few years ago.  But more about that below.  For now, Charlie

We were friends from an early age.  Close friends, I would say, but not so close as we would call each other best friends or bosom buddies, or stuff like that.  We lived about a block or so away from each other on Bailey Avenue in The Bronx.  Charlie was, what can I say, an intense kind of guy, not quite driven, not possessed, but simply intense. Maybe, thinking about it, he was more a mule than a bulldog.  But he had bulldogian notions.   I won’t say he had no sense of humor, but, though he could get a joke, he couldn’t tell one.  He had a kind of sense of purpose instead.   It’s odd he would find a companion in me, who has lived an Un-Purposed Life for three quarters of a century.

We “knocked around:” with the other guys our age on the block, doing the things the other guys on the block, and guys all over the city, did back then; which included getting into trouble, too.  And, then, we started growing up.

One day he asked me to write a poem for him; to write a poem for a girl from Brooklyn he had met at a dance, a girl he wanted to impress.  Now, we lived in the Bronx, which at that time could as well have been in another galaxy, and this girl of another species entirely.  She was, I think, an Italian girl; so she really was a member of another species.  But, Charlie was determined, even if getting to Brooklyn took about as long as it took The Owl and The Pussycat to get to The Land Where the Bong Trees Grow; which I understand is a nice place.  I hope to visit it someday.  I will probably find out I have already been there.  A lot.

Well, I wrote the poem.  Charlie began a weekly odyssey to Brooklyn under the tunneled streets and under the tunneled river, and under God knows where else.  He surfaced from time to time back among us and often asked for the loan of a buck or two for his trips to a Strange Land.  We gave of our surplus to supply his want.  What are friends for?  One day Charlie announced that he had found a better way, he would need our help no longer to visit his Brooklyn doll.  He had found the horses, and happy days were here again!

I am not going into all the details, but you know them already, don’t you.  We were in college then, me at Manhattan College. which was foolish enough to give me a scholarship, and Charlie at Fordham University.  He studied accounting and I studied English, a language I already knew, so I figure I do not have to do anything, a thing I still know how to do about better than anyone else.  I know how to do it certainly better than anything else I know how to do, which anyone will tell you is not much.

Charlie spends most of his time at school in Accounting classes learning how to develop a system to beat the horses, which have become a nearly full time occupation, and we begin to lose contact, to drift apart and finally lose sight of each other as the horizon intervenes.  Before that happens, he tells me that he is doing this by using statistics, which I do not now understand, and never will, but which he say is very very necessary for winning horse races and figuring whether it will rain in July , or whether it will be good to buy or sell almost anything. It’s part of Economics, he says.

I do not understand.

There is a term that is used in the NYPD to describe people who gamble for a living.  They are called a Degenerate Gambler; and I used to see the initials DG next to a lot of guys when I riffed through the police records looking for one bad guy or another, one clown or another in whom I took a professional interest.  I do not know if Charlie ever earned his DG patch.  Gosh, I hope not.  He was a man, for all that, and deserved better

But I remember, though, the several times before the sea between us was too wide, when he showed my his “books” the ledger he had on just about every horse at every track in the country.  He was sure he would develop a foolproof system.  He would have been the first if he had; which he didn’t.  But, I was impressed with his dogged devotion to the task, and the fire of the true believer in his eyes.

I asked him what of all these columns and numbers was most important for success.  “It’s all statistics,” he answered.  “Like batting averages?”  Batting averages were about the only thing I knew about statistics then, and still know now.  I listened to statistics about horses, and jockey weight, and the weather on race days, and stuff like that which Charlie said mattered while I drank his beer.  Then, I left.

While in college I was tempted to take a course in psychology, but shied away when I was told by the catalogue I needed to take a course in statistics.  I think that my experience with my friend may have had something to do with that also.  Anyway, Mr. Pearce’s article makes a point about economics, and whence the discipline comes; about which I had known nothing.  He binds it to philosophy, a thing which it definitely doesn’t resemble today.  I mean, philosophy requires more than “doing the numbers”, and is about more than that, the truth, for one thing.  But, Economics is, I kind of think, statistics dressed up.  Simple statistics can as the saying goes, lie; or lead one to that, a lie.  And so can Economics, which someone once told me is sort of “Anyone’s guess.”

Here is the other thing I am thinking about because of Mr. Pearce’s article.  The other night I watch President Trump talk to Congress and the rest of us.  You all know what he says by now, and think what you think about what he says. I don’t pay too much attention to that.  But one little part interests me.  That’s the part where he says they get rid of NAFTA, and they are going after this Pacific thing where we all get in a circle and deal straight up.

I say “Yippee!” to myself when I hear that.  And you know why?  It’s because economists and politicians, and millionaire business men, and one world maniacs think that there’s nothing better in the world than free trade.  They think this so fervently that they don’t see Detroit becoming a desert, and drugs becoming a number one commodity in places where folks once could make an honest living making shirts, shoes, pants, desks, chairs and what all from Maine to Mississippi.

And that was because the market analysis told them everyone would rise on the rising tide of free trade.  Well except the ones who couldn’t swim.  Swimmers love a rising tide.  little folks drown, or go on welfare, or to war, in the mud.  Turns out that NAFTA really was anyone’s guess.

Statistics don’t care, and Economics don’t either.  What the hell, there’s always welfare and surplus peanut butter.

You gotta get close to folks.  The corner store’s the best.

 

 

 

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Soft As A Baby’s B***

Oh, the many wonders of modern science and technology!

Here’s a story that would have been more appropriate on Halloween when the full moon gazed more or less peacefully on all the little ones in their clever costumes wandering up and down the street, Mom’s and Dad’s standing guard in the night, neighbors at the door smiling…

Over in Switzerland, land of cheese, watches, yodeling and off shore tax hideaways there’s also a pretty important pharmaceutical industry.  I know this because I have a friend who works in one of them “big pharma” companies called Pfizer.  I think “puh-fizer” is a Swiss company, as a matter of fact.  One of my nieces works for Pfizer, too.  My friend is a marketing/development guy.  My niece is an engineer.  He’s in Indiana and she’s in Connecticut.

This is, like I said, a big deal company.  I mention all of this about my friend and my niece as a matter of full disclosure.  I also want to let you know that “the rest of the story” has nothing to do with Pfizer, as far as I can tell. There’s another company called NEOCUTIS over there.  That has an awful lot to do with the “ROTS”.  Funny how those initials spell that word, ain’t it?

Not too many days ago those of us who still have any sense left celebrated something called the feast of All Souls.  On that day, the Office for the Dead is the official prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours.  One of the readings for Mass is the same as one of the readings for a funeral.  It begins, “The souls of the just are in the hands of God.”

Yeah, yeah, yeah..!  Well, that’s nice, and so on.

Because you see, thanks to the folks over in Switzerland, who are practical scientists and really interested in what happens now, not that hands of God malarkey, we have great hopes of having our great hope realized.  That is the great hope of never growing old, no wrinkles, no botox, no face lifts, no…fill in the blank.  It’s all of a sudden become a Peter Pan world, without alligators, savage Inidans and maleficent Pirate captains.  Makes me want to shout, “Wendys of the world, unite!”

Travel to the NEOCUTIS web site and read all about the breakthrough in skin care and wound treatment that’ll leave the skin of the person exposed to this wonder with skin as the title of this little exposition suggests, and smooth as one, too.  I can hear all the day spa addicts saying, “Oooh!!  Now if they could just invent something to take care of sag.”

We used to believe that we were creatures of time, and signs of age were to be honored and respected.  What was it old Bill Shakespeare said, “Our little lives are rounded with a sleep?”  And way long before him, some wandering Jew moaned that our lives are “seventy years or eighty.., and most of these are emptiness and pain?”  Poor slobs, that they were born and died when they did.  That’s all so 1560’s and before.

Too bad, too, that guys like Marx, Hegel and Nietzsche, never lived long enough to see their hopes…well some of them, for the right folks at the right price…fulfilled.  The first two would recognize this as just another sign of the inevitable progress of man to perfection, and the other guy, the wing-nut, would see it as merely power doing what power is supposed to do; all that super-man stuff overcoming.  Who needs God!  They’d love it!

Philosophy and science have united for the perfection of man and the completion of history…in a little while, anyway.

NEOCUTIS, over there in the mountains among the watches and yodelers, is a relatively new company.  A few scientists, doctors and money guys got together when the folks at the labs in the University of Lausanne discovered something and figured that had found the Fountain of Youth; a not unattractive thought which keeps occurring to the race.

Here’s what they say about it on their own web-site:

“Anti-Aging:

A recent anti-aging study showed that Bio-restorative Skin Cream with PSP® significantly helps to reduce signs of skin aging.

PSP® contained in Bio-restorative Skin and Eye Cream helps to improve the appearance of aged skin by providing the most complete and balanced combination of human growth factors and cytokines currently available.

Anti-Aging Study

After only two months of twice daily use of Bio-restorative Skin Cream with PSP™, 83% of subjects showed improved appearance of wrinkles in eye area and 50% of subjects showed improved appearance of wrinkles in mouth area.

Role of PSP® in anti-aging

Recent studies suggest that aged or photoaged skin has the same needs as wounded skin, where growth factors and other cytokines interact synergistically to initiate and coordinate the wound healing response.

Aging of Skin

Human skin, like all other organs, undergoes chronological aging. In addition, unlike most other organs, skin is in direct contact with the environment and therefore ages as a consequence of environmental damage. The primary environmental factor that causes human skin aging is ultraviolet irradiation from the sun. This sun-induced skin aging (called photoaging), like chronological aging, is a cumulative process. Aged and photo-aged skin manifests in fine and deep wrinkles, loss of elasticity, loss of translucency as well as in color and pigmentation changes.”

Ain’t that great!  I was curious about that PSP stuff and did a little digging around on the web site.  Finally I found out that PSP stands for “Processed Skin Cell Protein”.  It’s a cool thing they get when they drop a piece of skin into something, and do something else to it, and then put that stuff in jars, or dishes and bake, or boil or just wait.  That’s science in a nutshell.

“Yeah, well,” you perceptively ask, “where does the skin come from?”  According to the website, the skin which was the source of all of this goodness was “donated”.  As a matter of fact it was a “one time donation”.

“Who was compassionate enough of his fellow man to make such a donation, salvific in nature if ever a donation there was?”  Well, umm, it was a fetus, umm, that is a “terminated” fetus, as the saying goes.  And, well, the fetus itself didn’t actually donate its skin for the cause.  The doctors asked the people who donated the dead thing if they could have the skin.

It sort of reminds me of a Thanksgiving turkey being carved, you know?  “Who wants some skin?”  Dad always asked that question.  The turkey being dead had no real say in the matter; sort of like the fetus, here.

Of course this “fetal termination”, the NEOCUTIS folks are at pains to say, was necessary for some reason or other involving something or other vaguely named deformity or difficulty or danger or, perhaps?…we need some skin.  Nah, that’d never happen.  Anyway, look what’s come of it all.

Wrinkles and scars on flesh disappear with a wipe or two of their lotion or potion or salve.  No one thinks about the wrinkles or scars all that stuff creates on the soul.

What soul?

I’ve been thinking about Mary Shelley since I read about this.  Did you know she got the first ideas about her novel “Frankenstein” while she was in Switzerland?  I wonder if it’s the water?

This Ain’t Rocket Science

You ever wonder why you can’t even mention the word God in some places, like, oh, schools?  I mean, it’s a little word.  Ain’t it?  What’s to be ascared of?

Well, some times you can mention God in school.  But you can’t say anything nice, or good, about God.  You gotta talk about God as if He’s dead, or dopey, or downright mean.  Otherwise you’re not smart, or you’re silly or numb as a hedge fence as the saying goes.  Unless you’re a theologian or some other kind of professionally smart guy, like a physicist or biologist.  Then you can mention God and talk about him as if , well, as if He was a footnote.

It’s because, I guess, if you mention God, you gotta start thinking about good and evil somewhere along the line.  And that leads you to thinking about such things as what is or isn’t good and evil, who’s responsible for it and how to make things better or stop them from getting worse.  The folks who think about these things today often don’t want to think that we can’t do all of that ourselves…if we even admit that some things may be good and other things, well, not bad, really, but not yet, umm, good for everyone, everywhere.  I mean hunger’s not good for everyone, unless you’re dieting, or unless you’re running a shipping line that’s got a big bucks contract to deliver surplus food from a rich country to a poor one.  And sex is always good, everywhere, all the time, with anyone.  And science is good, because what it don’t know it will soon find out and, well, make sense out of all of this.

See what I mean?

Here’s an advertisement from Macedonia that mentions God and good and evil.  It’s really stupid.  Watch it and see.  By no means is this rocket science, and you gotta wonder why folks bother with it.