Truth isn’t enough anymore.

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In bygone eras, perhaps they were always bygone, it was believed that truth and love would always win in the end, that purveyors of falsehood and hate would be exposed, and then they would be inevitably be brought down and punished severely. The idea was that heartfelt honesty supporting truth and love always wins because it feels good and is the right thing to do, and those honest loving people wouldn’t tolerate those who violated the rules. I could go on but this style of writing is self-defeating because everyone knows cheating almost always works, and even flagrant violating of laws works almost all the time. I mentioned the other day a guy driving past me at about 50 MPH thru a residential zone clearly marked at 20 MPH. He did wait behind a line of cars at the next RED light. Even on black-ice covered roads, people here drive faster than the posted speed limits.

Without feedback to one’s behavior, there is no possibility of proper adaptation to an existing environment. I’m in agreement with Nassim Taleb’s idea that people should have skin in the game; that is, something they value will be lost if they perform a bad action. In our present era, there isn’t a tight lock between good actions and good outcomes. Quite the opposite!

I’m tired of this post! I’m going to go read Fantasyland by Kurt Andersen; perhaps he has some good suggestions.

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Simple numbers can be even simpler

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There are several Probaway posts on a new way for labeling numbers from infinitely tiny to infinitely large that makes their relative values obvious. This replaces the International System of Units (SI) method of counting which is intended to be simple, unambiguous, and easy to use but isn’t. The system is ruined by a plethora of arbitrary names and values which make it nearly impossible to use the system without having the values printed before you and some paper, or a calculator to do your calculations, even for intellectually simple problems.

The SI system of prefixes, abbreviations and values: yotta Y 10^24, zetta Z 10^21, exa E 10^18, peta P 10^15, tera T 10^12, giga G 10^9, mega M 10^6, kilo k10^3, hecto h 10^2, deca da 10^1, number, deci d 10^-1, centi c 10^-2, milli m 10^-3, micro μ 10^-6, nano n 10^-9, pico p 10^-12, femto f 10^-15, atto a 10^-18, zepto z 10^-21, yocto y 10^-24.

With the Probaway counting system, you have a routine single syllable word (tie, symbol small t) for placing the decimal point no matter how tiny or large the value. That word tie is routinely followed by a positive number which sets the decimal point to the right, or if the number is between 0 and 1 a minus is added to set the decimal point to the left the number of positions indicated by the number following the minus sign.

When that process is followed, routine computations between all numbers, great and minuscule, are easily done. Addition and subtraction of the numbers to the right of the word tie are working at the power of ten, and thus making those great values more obvious. The numbers to the left of the word tie are where the other mathematical computations are done. Sometimes, there will be a shift in the decimal location and that number will simply be added or subtracted, as needed, from those to the right of the word tie.

It would be easy if everyone was counting that way, but it is unlikely.

“Do it right!!!” Connecting with the tree of life. #2

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Yesterday’s post received a thoughtful comment from

R. Lee Darby, who wrote:

“When discussing metaphysical articles of faith there are no valid answers – only questions. Whether we are souls who inhabit a physical body or nothing more than random atoms is a good philosophical question but there can be no answers or proofs. The metaphysical, by definition, lies beyond knowledge and understanding where there are no proofs nor any scientific answers. Applying scientific reasoning to metaphysical questions is futile because proofs can only be based on what we know or can know within physical domains. One should never debate an article of faith which is based in the metaphysical realm. By definition, articles of faith transcend knowledge. One either believes it or not. It is pointless to debate metaphysical questions for there will never be any proof.

“One can only ask metaphysical questions without any expectation of answers. Does god exist? Does the soul exist? Are there unknowable truths? Are there unknowable truths that lie beyond reason and science? Who is wise enough to say? One may find answers to questions about physical reality using science but it is folly to expect to find answers in an infinite metaphysical domain that exists only within the human mind and perhaps the human soul.

“How could one ever hope to scientifically prove the metaphysical property of love? Or should we rather accept that love, like the human soul, requires an article of faith that requires no proof? One either believes that they are loved or not. Debating, and reasoning for proof to metaphysical questions, indicates both a lack of understanding and wisdom.”


To which I replied :

The goal of that post was to state my feelings, largely untestable beliefs, that I am comfortable with all that is in the Universe. After consideration of that idea many years ago, I decided that even poison oak and mosquitoes were welcome in my world, even though they have caused me considerable personal discomfort. My problem with unconstrained faith is that many people I encounter give themselves free rein to postulate the most absurd ideas and then guide their real-world behavior on self-destructive ideas.


It appears that many people in our Brave New World of truthiness are utterly beyond Animal Farm‘s trust in authority figures gone bad and well off into the world of 1984‘s where people truly believe that if you can conjure up any idea it becomes part of external reality.

It appears imperative that I reconsider my world view that “anything natural reality creates is okay with me.” I dislike poison oak because its efforts to defend itself have  resulted in many days of severe itching for me, but I’ve decided that it has a right to live and it is my responsibility to treat it with respect and never touch it, even by accident. Most of my encounters with reality, such as gravity taking things I value and pulling them to the floor, where they sometimes break, I have learned to cope with.

My problem is with those human beings who, with their considerable native intelligence and vast social learning available, choose to think, say, and do incredibly stupid things. Large numbers of humans deserve Darwin Awards, and I would consider supporting the idea that they should advertise their beliefs by displaying their Darwin Award symbol conspicuously as I do.

How should I cope with people who deserve Darwin Awards?

“Do it right!!!” Connecting with the tree of life.

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In a discussion with a group of eighteen men I proclaimed, it was more than I just said, “I am comfortable with dying and just becoming a scattered random bunch of individual atoms that are part of the physical universe, without my individual identity.” This was in response to some others there, who claimed they were inhabited by a spirit that will live eternally. I gently asked for any verification of their statements and was told it was true because their faith in the Bible meant it was true.

They, of course, asked for my proofs and I said that everything I have ever observed followed the pattern after dying of reverting to nonliving matter. A dead leaf or squirrel planted in my garden will help the new plants grow better, but that plant isn’t a squirrel. Some of the new plants might create nuts which the squirrels do eat but this new squirrel will be a totally different individual. They will have some crossover DNA in their common ancestry but their life experience is unique.

I don’t see my body being any different from a squirrel’s in this dying, becoming organic matter enriching the soil and being reborn as a plant and then possibly as a mammal. I am like a tiny leaf on the vast tree of life and while I am a living part of that tree I will treat all of it with love and respect because it is all part of me and I a part of it. When the time comes for me to die it will be like a leaf, having fulfilled its purpose of nourishing the tree, it breaks off and falls away to nonliving oblivion.

Back in the ground my atoms can perform other functions to help a new tree to grow, but my individuality will be gone forever. I’m comfortable with that.

“Do it right!!!” Overfilling your brain with the right stuff.

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The early Greek Stoics were filled with the right stuff for a couple of hundred years, starting with my Suggestions based on the Delphi Oracle’s maxims in 500 BCE and expanding to the Greek hegemony over the known world from Italy to India. Their intellectual heritage permeated wherever they went and it is still with us today.

About 374 BCE Isocrates wrote a letter to a young man, Demonicus, that was paraphrased by Shakespeare in his 1602 AD play Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, Act I, Scene 3, 564-567, where Polonius, the king’s chief counselor, gives these concluding lines of advice to his son Laertes who is sailing away to University:

This above all – to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell. My blessing season this in thee!

The preceding part of the soliloquy is filled with what appears to be sound advice and yet later in the play Prince Hamlet is sent as ambassador on a boat to England by the King, his uncle, and is forced to invert Polonius’ seeming good advice. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who are Hamlet’s childhood friends, are secretly carrying a letter to the King of England asking that king to kill Hamlet. However, Hamlet discovers the letter, and in his courtly handwriting style, acquired in his youth, he rewrites the letter asking the king to kill his deceitful friends instead. Hamlet then escapes back to Denmark in what he calls a pirate boat and comes upon the famous graveyard scene where his wife-apparent Ophelia has committed suicide and is being buried disgracefully outside of the churchyard cemetery.

Up until the discovery of the murderous letter Hamlet has been a dutiful son, but this attempted assassination attempt by the king brings out the deceitful qualities Hamlet feels are needed by an heir to the throne. The remainder of the play is about how he attempts to cope with the problem of proving the deceit of the king, his uncle, and the stabbings and poisonings by sword and cup soon follow. This play is an example of how good people can go bad by overthinking a deadly problem.

Sometimes doing the right thing brings personal disaster, especially when dealing with deceitful dictators.

“Do it right!!!” Filling your brain with the right stuff.

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Ben Franklin’s suggestion was “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise”. Long ago, for my personal use, I modified it slightly to, “happy, healthy, wealthy, and wise”, because at that time that order felt more realistic. From some approaches that is still valid because people can still be happy on their deathbed. I’ve seen that happen to dying relatives. But, at that time when health is giving out for the final time, wealth and wisdom don’t carry much value, while  personal relationships to their loved ones do.

From another point of view, wealth seems like the ultimate virtue to be sought because with money one can purchase many of the things that make life easier, and sometimes money makes health last a little longer. However, in daily living, happiness beyond covering one’s basic monetary needs isn’t linear, and having a hundred million dollars isn’t a hundred times better than having a million dollars, and having a hundred thousand dollars in the bank isn’t a hundred times better than having a thousand dollars. But having some money reserves for contingencies gives a great deal of relief over being broke. It has been said that most modern Americans can’t come up with $400 in an emergency, and must turn to expensive loans to survive. If that’s true most people are living in a condition of self-induced anxiety.

Wisdom was the last of Franklin’s suggested values, but wisdom is the basis for everything that a human can have and hold. “A fool and his money are soon parted.” There ought to be a counter proverb, “A wise man and his happiness, health, and wealth glide through long lives together.” Even better than learning to be smarter than everyone else is to be less stupid than they behave.

Getting wisdom early brings wonderful things to your life.

“Do it right!!!” Coping with improving performance skills.

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I’ve been writing this daily blog for ten years and the subjects have varied widely but always with the intent of discovering something new about how to improve the human condition. My writing skills have improved a little but are a long way from good, even from good enough.

I must try to clarify my writing and that requires studying what I should have learned in high school, but didn’t. Last evening I purchased a book at Dudley’s, here in Bend,  named Rules for Writers by Diana Hacker and on simply reading a few pages discovered that I need help. But I’m already buried in books such as Trivium and Quadrivium I desperately need to read if I am going to become a competent human being.

But all of that learning must be in the background to what needs to be completed now. What current accomplishment requires is execution and executing with excellence. Fortunately, the snow is deep enough that I can’t get on with my other major project, that of making my house as fireproof as possible. There was an amazing amount of flammable stuff on my property, like Ponderosa trees, that I have removed down to the ground level. I’m not paranoid! My neighborhood looks like Paradise, California,  before the fire totally destroyed it. Our city is now undergoing a major drought and this coming 4th of July will have pyromaniacs wandering the city with rockets and Roman candles. That’s the tradition here … to watch the professional fireworks from the top of Pilot Butte and then watch the butte catch fire even though there are fire trucks already in position at the top. Crazy!

My task presently is to execute my projects with excellence and to be prepared for the inevitable city-wide fire.

Choosing who we are to become.

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This blog, Probaway – Life Hacks ~ Many helpful hints on living your life more successfully, now has 4,123 posts and 1,970,621 views. The intent has been to achieve the living of a complete life. There has been a multitude of different trails pursued but always there has been the attempt to open the doors of perception, to pull aside the obscuring veils hiding facts, to reach deep into the fogs obscuring knowledge, to probe the chaos-riddled depths of wisdom, and to fall acceptingly into the vacuum of the universal void. It has been like breathing fog onto a mirror where I have only succeeded in obscuring my own reflected image of myself.

Earlier I was thinking on those brief moments when we feel like we have a choice of what we are to become, to become in the middle future. Not now, not tomorrow, and not eternity either, but a year from now or five years. That’s long enough to make some real changes in one’s behavior. What should I choose to change?

In a conversation earlier tonight I consciously succeeded, three separate times, at choosing to restate my companion’s statements into what I hoped was a clarified presentation of the essence of their idea. I did that before I made my personal contribution. This attempt at controlling myself derived from my blog post “Do it right!!!” Coping with poor rhetoric skills. In that post, I realized my style of personal presentation was injuring the communication I was intending to promote. This, for me, was a turning point in my life that I should have made as a child, but didn’t.

At my current rate of progress I should become a reasonably well-behaved seven-year-old in a couple of years.

Conversations about art and famous artists forgotten.

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Most weekday mornings I meet with my old artist dudes and we talk about art. You have to be there with some art history to enjoy the banter, and some current hands-on experience to really enjoy the experience. Just saying something like, “That looks like a Rockwell.” “No, what are you talking about?” “It’s the super-focused intensity of the person’s eyes that’s startling. Just one picture like this one and it seems natural to an event, but with decades of those focused eyes, like Rockwell did, and it becomes weird.” “ Ya, but he’s telling a story about what you should be interested in.” “I agree, but he also pulls in every person, even across the street, and even the dog, and even the doll is paying close attention to the action. That’s what makes it weird.”

We can go on like that for a couple of hours, and today was like that.

That scary pile of heavy books on my desk suddenly grew a bit more today when I started reading James Burke’s The Day The Universe Changed. The book is poorly documented and I had trouble finding his references to illustration sources, even with the help of Google. Fortunately, my live-in librarian Debbie came to the rescue and she found the beautiful full-page color picture on page 18, referenced only as “A 12th Century German illustration,” was in fact created by Hildegard of Bingen. The miracle doesn’t stop there, because once she knew that, the book Hildegard of Bingen’s Book of Divine Works, with Letters and Songs, edited by Matthew Fox, was on my desk in minutes. We haven’t yet found the source of the beautiful picture only labeled, “A medieval manuscript miniature exalts the great book, St Augustine’s City of God.” There are hundreds of pictures that match that description online now.

I have so many books, I will be compelled to select what I am going to read. (It will be worse than usual.)

“Do it right!!!” Coping with poor rhetoric skills.

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It happened again this evening in a conversation with five other people where it appeared that these people automatically disagreed with what I had to say. I spoke of specific things of historical importance as a counter-argument to something that had just been presented and, as usual, people argued vehemently against what I was saying.

The statement that I challenged was that the world was in a state of war and that people were being killed in vast numbers. To me this was utter nonsense, and I responded that we live in a time of astonishing peace. Haven’t you any sense of history?, I said. In World War Two, people were being killed at a rate of five thousand per day for years, and today if a single American soldier gets killed it makes the national news. Another annoying assertion I made was that Genghis Khan and his sons killed a third of the people in Asia and Europe. We live in an astonishingly peaceful 21st century, so far.

Log chart of historical war deaths

A history of major war deaths shown on a logarithmic chart.

I suppose my statement was a bit harsh, but my current point is that it was rejected, and the people present seemed to be miffed that I had said such unpleasant things. Even if my facts were accurate, at least generally accurate, they didn’t want to hear such things.

What I learned from the evening’s discussion was something that I should have learned on my first day in school. You must say things in a way that people will agree with or they will disagree, and if they argue they will become entrenched in whatever they said in their first statement. Perhaps I was partially aware of my problem from tonight’s discussion because I had purchased the Wooden publisher’s book Trivium, and had intended to get started studying it after finishing Quadrivium. Now it seems that I should face my more serious life problem and jump directly to Trivium book V, Rhetoric, and learn how to talk to people in a way that they will understand and accept.

About this time Debbie, realizing I was interested in rhetoric, brought some books over to me from our personal library: Modern Rhetoric, by Brooks & Warren, How to Argue and Win Every Time by Gerry Spence, How to talk with practically anybody about practically anything, by Barbara Walters, Farnsworth’s Classical English Rhetoric by Ward Farnsworth, Modern Dogma and the Rhetoric of Assent by Wayne C. Booth, Pre-suasion by Robert Cialdini, and The Rhetoric of Aristotle by Lane Cooper. Okay, there’s a year’s work just piled on my desk. Did I mention I have a helpmate?

In addition to reading and digesting all of this rhetoric stuff, I must change my behavior. Okay.